Your Mother Called: VII. Don’t hang up.

Dear Son,

Years ago, before meeting me, one of your father’s colleagues–upon learning that I was a yoga teacher (and knowng that we were from the “hippie town”)–gave me a nickname, which stuck, among their teaching friends, even after she left the school:

Moonbeam.

Despite how much I appreciate and depend upon the reflection of the moon each month, I want to counter her soft-lit assignation with my credentials:

I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Science in Education–at the top of my class–with a concentration in Economics earned in a semester abroad at the University of London. By the age of 19, I ran a restaurant with 50 employees, followed by a series of classrooms, and topped by a handful of non-profits, which in recent years brought me to Chile and then to Japan, where I facilitated not one, but two, conferences with members from aroudn the world.

But back to the moon.
And my quiet life upon this mountain where I teach yoga and chakradance and talk about the tarot and share angel cards and explore an ayurveydic approach to wellbeing and write with my soul and study my fears and collage my dreams.

I have become my mother.

Last month I spent at week back at the shore just as the moon was waxing full. I stayed in a summer rental a few blocks from the beach (still empty of both tourists and locals.) On the night before my departure, an old friend messaged me about the moon.

Have you gone down to the beach to see it, he asked.

I didn’t remember then a spring night, thirty-something years earlier, when I showed up with a blanket and a bottle of wine and drove him to the beach on a night just like tonight.

I bristled at the intrusion of his message. I was in the middle of laundry. It was already late. How had I forgotten about the moon! The proximity of the ocean. The lure of the night. How had I needed to be reminded by a man! A man who once said he couldn’t bear to listen to the music I loved because it was sung by a woman.

I drove to the beach instead of walking. To be quicker. And something else…

I scanned the empty blocks for humanity before getting out of my car. Spotted a single figure several beaches away. Just enough time. For a few vigilant moments in the open air. Not onto the beach which lured me. But to the bench. At the top of the dunes. A safe distance from my car. To absorb light on dark water. Not a bad aspiration.

Moonbeam.

How easy it had been for my friend to offer this suggestion. He must have imagined doing it himself. He must do it all the time when he’s here. Even without the moon.

After our college years, we both backpacked around Europe. He went alone. I went with friends. Because he didn’t have to consider what I considered as I approached the beach on this moonlit night past 10 pm.

Headlines.
Commentary.

I thought back to my time at the United Nations this past March. How I left a late afternoon meeting at the Commission of the Status of Women earlier than planned. How I watched as the sun faded over the East River, and grew afraid. How my body tensed as I walked the city blocks back to the apartment, alone, in the dark.

A rabbit crossed my path, and headed into the dunes.

As I got back into my car, my mind considered habitat, Celtic ancestry, animal medicine:

Fear. Fertility. Moon.

You, my son, have just returned from backpacking too, during which you befriended a child in one of your homestays–a girl, the age of 3–who got you to thinking about your own daughter, and how you want to raise her: strong, capable, determined; but without needing to prove it.

Daddy & me–age 3, 1967.

My eyes sting. Not because that last line was directed at me, but because I want a father like you. One who thinks of me long before I’m here; instead of one who makes no effort to see me after I’ve drive 7 hours to his beach town.

“You won’t be the only one raising your daughter,” I say, as you fry us up some of our neighbor’s eggs. “The culture will shape her too.”

You sigh, overly familiar with the narrative spouted by women like me–emotional rants–tiresome and intolerable.

I shift to statistics. Hollywood films. Women with speaking parts.

You shake your head. “I know this.”

Knowing is one thing, I say, living it is another.

“You don’t need to tell me,” you say, and maybe you’re right. Maybe I tell too much.

I remember your face. I remember watching you watch me as the stitches were removed in the doctor office two weeks after your brother was born at home beside you.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “You’ll never have to feel this.”

“I feel it,” you said. “Inside me.”

You were just shy of your 5th birthday, asking,  “Where is Lila, anyway?” of the sister we thought was coming.

I offer you a riddle as we sit down with our eggs and tea. A real stumper in my day, I explain. You indulge me. I tell it once through, surprised to see that your face holds no recognition.  I tell it a second time, emphasizing the father in the story, to help you out. But you shake you head.

“I don’t know,” you say.

I smile.

After I share the answer, I don’t have to say anything. I don’t have to say:

“This is how the world is different for me.
And my granddaughter.”

A father and his son are in a car accident. The father dies instantly, and the son is taken to the nearest hospital. The surgeon comes in and exclaims “I can’t operate on this boy.”

“Why not?” the nurse asks.

“He’s my son.”

My son pointing across the Strait of Gibraltar toward Africa, 2016.
My son pointing across the Strait of Gibraltar toward Africa, 2016.
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