Coming full circle

My finest memories of past Mothers’ Days, especially as a younger mother, are my breakfasts in bed. Russ did a fine job shepherding our two young daughters through the cooking production followed by an elaborate delivery, while I enjoyed coffee and the Oregonian as I lounged in bed that one day each year. The breakfast tray would be adorned with a few blossoms from our yard and some years the menu included a favorite bakery cinnamon roll; often accompanied by not-yet-Oregon strawberries, an expected taste disappointment.

This year is our oldest daughter’s first Mother’s Day. I had no concept how meaningful it would be to me to celebrate our daughter this Day. I remember back during my early motherhood profusely thanking Mom for acknowledging me, usually with a card, flowers and chocolate. Each year I would advise her how she didn’t need to honor me. After all, she was my mother not the reverse. It is only now, two years after her death, that I understand the joy she felt in celebrating me as a mom. And a mom of her treasured grandchildren. The daughter I celebrate today was my parents’ first grandchild. Shortly after she was born, one of my brothers thanked me for taking the pressure off.

This year, above all else, I feel grateful. I understand not everyone has or necessarily desires what I have: I share my joy quietly. Russ and I are joined this Mother’s Day weekend with both grown daughters, one partner, this grandson, and a grandpup. This oldest daughter first hung out at this house as a six-week old during a Thanksgiving so stormy she never got out of the house. Our new grandbaby, an eighth generation Oregonian and fifth generation family beach house resident experienced sun and heat rarely found on this Long Beach Peninsula in May. I now understand how happy our parents were as family gathered together for decades in this Place.

My parents adored being grandparents. Last month I ran into a parent of my daughter’s friend: I hadn’t seen her in a long time and she asked how my mom was. When I told her Mom died in 2021, she told me she was sorry and added – unbeknownst to me – that Mom was her grandmother model. Although we weren’t close friends, she saw our daughter’s “Gaga” at school events and sports’ outings. Maybe she also knew that Gaga took care of her granddaughters every Tuesday until they were old enough to be home alone after school.

It is now that I understand the model Mom was for me not just as a mother, but as a grandmother.

Back in 1990 I was fortunate as an EPA employee to take six months maternity leave when my oldest daughter was born and return to work half-time, even though I was to supervise a full-time employee. Shortly after I worked more than a dozen years for a small consulting firm also part-time. I was fortunate and felt I had the best of both worlds. I did hold an irregular work schedule that today would be nearly impossible to accommodate in our childcare-challenged environment. The walls of this my old office celebrated black Sharpee marks my endearing coworkers insisted on to mark the changing height of my kids. Marks that stayed for decades until the walls were demolished to make way for today’s Mississippi Avenue Q Center.

Of all my challenging working motherhood times, I most remember the evening I was driving back to pick up my kids from their childcare center after a long teaching day at Mount Hood Community College. My car broke down a few feet past the Oregon City exit on the I-205 Abernathy Bridge. I lost all sense of reality, focused only on the need to pick up my then two and five year old kids before daycare center closing time. I scribbled a note and stupidly began to walk across the bridge, too late realizing it was a death trap and began to jog. All quite ironic considering I had been teaching a class about workplace safety. I gratefully hopped in a car that pulled over, balancing the risk of dying by accident or dangerous person: the male driver agreed to drop me 2000 feet safely at the exit over the Willamette River. Once out of the car, I still had three miles to go and was grateful to spy a Tri-Met bus heading north. Oh my, the poor choices we make for our kids when we think we have no others. I’m sure my kids thought they’d hit the jackpot when we headed next door for an unusual weeknight dinner of chicken fingers while we awaited our pick up from Russ.

What was consistent in all those early working years of mine, was Grandma Day. And, no doubt, some weeks there was more than one day when for whatever reason we didn’t have care. How lucky I am to be at the point in my career where I can now establish my own Grandma Day with my daughter having returned to work.

Back in those days of the 1990s, I don’t remember many friends benefiting from the weekly grandparent care privilege. In today’s world, between the challenge of finding care and its astronomical cost, I find many of my friends providing care for grandkids as parents work. While most treasure it as I do, I know a few who feel challenged by how exhausted they are by how much care they are asked to provide. It makes me sad how stressed out so many of our newer parents are in today’s work, life, economic and schedule challenges.

When my daughter was pregnant, she asked me what her son might call me? I was so excited for the birth of this baby, I hadn’t yet thought about my name. And, it really didn’t matter to me. After all, Mom was planning on being Grammy until this first grandkid named her Gaga, setting the stage for all subsequent grandkids. My Dad referred to his father’s mother as Gaga, though to my generation and our kids, my mom seems the real deal. Perhaps I’ll be Gaga D, I decided. But I’m not holding my breath; the way this little guy fights naps at the moment I know he has a mind of his own. All I care is that I can be there with him.

Last night on a spur of the moment, I dashed off to watch the sunset over the Pacific. As I did, I jogged past the spots where we had sprinkled both of our parents’ ashes. Just hours before I joined a Zoom call with a book group comprised of five sisters to discuss my novel Beyond the Ripples, a story about mothers and daughters at its heart. The book too illustrates the power of connections and the importance of walking life’s difficult journeys with someone who gets it. In my moments quietly appreciating the sunset I felt joy and sadness, grace and contentment. I understand how tomorrow and the days after will also bring moments of joy and sadness, and I hope, grace and contentment. I could ask for nothing more.

3 thoughts on “Coming full circle

  1. Great Mother’s Day comments. Being a Mom and a Gramma is very special.
    Did you get my email that i got the books?
    Take care Dede. Lois Mitchell


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