Jeanne Hewell-Chambers

& her barefoot heart

Tag: mother daughter relationship (page 1 of 2)

how can i love you better? (day 22)

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despite my loud and plentiful protestations,
she held my hand
tightly
and dragged me into
in the moon-lit ocean
at the bewitching hour
of 3 a.m.
standing knee-deep
in the frothy waters,
the red flag
warning us of riptides
that just might
pull us under
and tumble us into a
place we’ve never been before.

we talked in
mirrored likeness
of the waves
that broke on top of each other
and crossed at angles to each other
until
i was no longer her mother
and
she was no longer my daughter,
until we were, instead, simply
two women
who cherish,
cheer,
and console
each other,
alone on the beach,
holding hands while
standing knee-deep in the ocean
basking in the moonlight
and
magic of this
wondrously beautiful moment.

(this is what my daughter and i did last night while my mother/her grandmother slept.)

ethics (day 20)

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i want to tell you about the time i was good,
but i was good because they were bad.

i want to tell you about the time i survived,
but i survived because they were abusive.

i want to tell you about the time i won,
but i won because they lost.

i want to tell you about the time i tripped,
but i did that all by myself
and i just don’t feel like going
solo.

hello, mother, my name is jeanne (day 19)

you can’t make this stuff up.

fortunately i don’t even have to try.

~~~

the beautiful jewelry (yes, i wore it yesterday, too. i can’t get anything past you, can i?) is created by my friend kelly who also has an etsy shop. (pssst: it’s never too early to start shopping – ho, ho, ho!)

the paintings behind me were created by my talented daughter, alison.

and

no, that’s not a bump on the right side of my head. i kinda’ wish it were cause then i wouldn’t have to tell you that i did my own hair, but trust me: next time, i’ll check in with a mirror first.

aunt lucy and her cemetery snake, day 18

~~~

for inquiring minds . . .

the gorgeous earrings and necklace i’m wearing here were designed and created by my friend kelly from over at the blue muse. she has an etsy store, too, so go forth and shop.

and

see those two paintings behind me? they were painted specially for me by my daughter, moxie. but you can call her alison.

and

no, i’m not jaundiced and yes, i do brush my teeth and absolutely, i promise to learn more about lighting.

cemetery flowers, part 1 (day 17)

well, the trip to the cemetery took about 14 times longer than planned, what with that snake bite and the ensuing impromptu trip to the emergency room and all. seein’ as how i’m plumb tuckered out and in pain, i’m just gonna’ wait and tell y’all about it tomorrow.

i will tell you, however – cause i know you’ll sleep better knowing – that we went from this:
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to this:

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the end.

for now.

respect, day 16

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my name is jeanne, and i have authority issues . . .

i have long despised the words i heard far too often as a child, “with every head bowed and every eye closed,” words that preceded some man standing in the pulpit elevated above us and pontificating under the name of prayer. even as a youth, i did not want or need men speaking for me. even as a youth, i knew that prayer is something that can be done silently, by each person in his or her own way. even as a youth, i knew that some of these men used prayer as a spotlight, a greeting card, absolution, subterfuge.

so every time we gathered for dinner, one of the things i dreaded most was mother beckoning us to the kitchen, instructing us to hold hands, then asking the youngest child in attendance to say the blessing while the rest of us were to bow our head and close our eyes just like in days gone by.

eventually came the day when i could no longer go along quietly, my silence an implied endorsement.

“mother,” i said to her before one family gathering, “if you want to pray, that’s fine. i respect that. i do, however, ask that you not expect me to or demand that i join in. i ask that you respect me and my belief system and allow me to pray as i will. or will not.”

i went on to explain my belief that prayer is something that can be done in any variety of ways by individuals in ways they see fit. “the beauty of prayer,” i told her, “is that it’s no less effective if those around you don’t even know that you’re praying.”

“when others subject me to their prayers, i feel like they are forcing their religion on me without regard to my belief system. perhaps you could simply say,” i suggested, “‘join me as you will.’ that allows us to opt in or out. that is respectful of everyone in attendance.”

now she didn’t have to do this, of course, she’s my mother. according to the way i was brought up, i am to respect her without comment.

but she did. she dropped the required praying before a meal, allowing us to express our gratitude and seek grace in our own individual ways.

and i love her for that.

home remedy, day 15

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whenever she gets the chance, my mother extols the virtues of vinegar and water. she keeps a jar full in her refrigerator, and i stand here before you swearing that you won’t confuse it for sweet tea but once.

according to my mother, vinegar and water . . .
clears phlegm
clears your head
cures a cough
unstops your ears
settles a stomach
soothes an itch
trims off the pounds
stops allergies
cures sinus infections
erases acne
lowers high cholesterol
lower high blood pressure
brings a rosy glow to your complexion
alleviates acid reflux
and more.

in the same breath, mother will point out that on top of what all it does for your body and health, vinegar and water will also . . .

shine your shoes
shine your hair
whiten your teeth
remove dinginess from clothes
clean windows without leaving streaks
remove water marks from wood
lift stains from carpet
freshen the garbage disposal
polish brass
clean the microwave
deter ants
get the stink out of refrigerators
shoo flies
clean toilet bowls
kill grass
kill weeds
cut the scum off shower doors
prolong the freshness of flowers
make a dog smell better
soften paintbrushes
remove bumper stickers
tenderize meat
remove fruit stains from hands
and more.

i don’t know if it’ll do everything, and i’ll readily admit to having some qualms about putting something into my body that will clean a scorched iron. but i declare, today i feel so bad (i have a cold that i’m SURE i caught from kelly who’s had a cold and obviously forgot to wash her hands before going to the keyboard to tweet and comment, thereby spreading her cold germs to me), i’m minutes before mixing me up some vinegar and water.

in a mayonnaise jar, of course.

the shelf life of ink, day 14

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outside of checks
and thank you notes,
and invitations to the annual class reunion,
my mother doesn’t write.

she collects quotes
written by others,
though if she ponders
why they appeal
or how they apply
to her own life and self,
i don’t know about it.

i, on the other hand,
write.
some days more copiously
than others.
take today, for instance,
where my journal bleeds red
to match my heart.

the same journal that once was
little more than an
accounting of how i spent my time
each day.
now bears witness
as i write what i would love to read.
my honesty
and deepest thoughts and feelings
inked out on the page,
my journal the only one i trust
to receive and contain.

then i read an admonition from phyllis theroux
warning journal keepers to
keep in mind that children
might read one day’s entry as
the undying truth
without considering the context.
and i feel the weighty responsibility.

mark twain’s new 3-volume autobiography,
is about to be released
some 100 years after his death.
why so long?
he wanted the freedom to
speak his truth
without fear of
his words harming his loved ones
or driving wedges all around.

and so i can’t help but wonder
if i shouldn’t take the safe
road again
and go back to chronicling my comings and goings.
do i really want to risk saddling
my children
with discovering the essential me
through my words that accumulate
as i discover
the essential me?
i want them to understand me,
sure.
to at least see me as a complex –
perhaps even complicated –
woman of layers,
but what if i’m eternally
misunderstood and despised instead?

what if they never visit my grave
to change out the flowers?

maybe i should just amass a
collection of quotes
instead
and let my chiclets
assign meaning and likeness
as they will.

friendships, day 13

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mother’s friendship roll is long and full. she has friends from work, friends from starbucks, friends from church, friends she grew up with. mother is always socializing with this friend or that friend. sending cards. going to lunch. making quick check-in phone calls.

me? well, i always said that my children made me the best friends – and in many ways they still do. historically, my friends were mothers of my children’s friends. now my friendship roll is populated with women i’ve met through my involvement with the theatre company my daughter started 5 years ago. many of the people i graduated from high school with are still in the area, and i count them as friends. my friends from graduate school, both classmates and faculty, are scattered around the world. and then there are the women i’ve met online – mostly through blogs and twitter.

(my mother must occasionally worry about how many people will be at my funeral, because that is an important testament, you know.)

in my experience, the evolution of an online friendship – at least on twitter – goes like this: exchange follows on twitter > exchange tweets and retweets > comment on each other’s blog > swap private emails > exchange phone numbers > connect via phone or skype > meet in person.

many of my friends live in different time zones, so when we do lunch, it’s a virtual lunch.

and it’s not always at lunchtime for at least one of us.

but they’re still friendships. we’re women who share the same interests; ask the same questions of ourselves and others; laugh together; cry together; help each other realize our desires and dreams; and just generally see and consequently bring out the best in each other. it’s amazing how close i feel to so many of these women i’ve never laid eyes on. how much i cherish them, am stimulated by their creativity, enriched by their intelligence, shored by our conversations.

one of these women is celebrating a birthday today: angela kelsey (@angelakelsey). angela is an avid, intrepid seeker who is (thank goodness) willing to share her questions and occasional answers. her open mind and equally open heart inspire me, tickle me, challenge me, encourage me. though her interests are varied, the common thread is a desire to be the very best woman she can be. please click on her name to visit her blog or find her on twitter or, if all else fails, leave a comment here to join me in wishing her happy, happy.

when angela and i first met in person, the ways our friendships differ from our mothers’ friendships really surfaced. when angela told her mother that i was meeting her in columbia, south carolina, her mother expressed concern that i might turn out to be an axe murderer or something. we laughed as she told me the story, but i couldn’t help thinking how understandable that is from our mothers’ perspectives.

well anyway, whether your friends live in the same town or are neighbors in the etherhood, go invest some time into evolving a friendship, will ya? the return on investment is astounding, humbling, life changing.

i always said i was gonna’, day 10 (on 11)

i always said i was gonna’ take some little road trips all by myself, and well bless goodness if i didn’t just up and do it yesterday – and i wound up walking on holy ground . . .

~~~
i always said i was gonna’ just pull over and take pictures. i’ll admit to being a teensy bit worried about whether mother’s dainty little sedan could take pulling over on these country roads, but you know that ole’ girl did just fine. i believe she’s got an inner suv that had itself a big ole’ time.

now my boy kipp and i call them story (STOW ree) houses cause they just conjure up the storyteller in us, and we always said that one day we’re gonna’ just stop and take pictures when we see one. well, i started without you, kipp:
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i’d no doubt be telling completely different stories if i’d ever had to pick cotton:
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to prove i was where i said i was:
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“i ‘spect people picked at him on account of the way he dressed,” whispered blondell. “i got a cousin just like that,” i told her. “his mama didn’t have any more sense than to bring him down from new jersey dressed in linen shorts, knee socks, and a little ole’ beanie cap to match. he’s episcopalian now.”
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a chunk of boo radley’s tree. the knot hole’s down in the gift shop. they sell chewing gum out of it.
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a juror’s chair. i tend to believe blondell when she says this is the original seat.
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me. sitting in the witness chair. (yes, of course i took the fifth.)
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the witness spittoon. “can you imagine,” blondell asked me, “spittin’ in public RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF ALL THESE PEOPLE?” i could not.
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the courtroom itself from the public entry:
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and finally, the picture de resistance snapped by me. sitting in the judge’s chair. you knew i’d do it, didn’t you?
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