What’s NOT the best choice for a bedtime story? Ballad of the Harp-Weaver.

There sat my mother
   With the harp against her shoulder
Looking nineteen
   And not a day older,
A smile about her lips,
   And a light about her head,
And her hands in the harp-strings
   Frozen dead.

 

Since I was lucky enough to become a grandma (thank you DIL!) I’m always searching for new and interesting books to tempt Angel Boy 2.0 and his voracious appetite for words and pictures and language. One of my favorite photos was of AB 2.0 at around two months looking intently at AB 1.0 while he read a story. We swear he was paying attention. Maybe/maybe not, but we like to think so.

I went to our local library where they have a store staffed by volunteers and always find great books-sadly some never even cracked open-and grabbed an armful.

I parked myself in a little child-sized chair and briefly skimmed through my treasures. I found a book by one of my son’s favorite authors, James Herriot, who wrote All Creatures Great and Small and Moses the Kitten, along with about a dozen other really good stories, mostly about animals (my personal interests shining through).

Somehow, though, this book slipped by…

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver by Edna St. Vincent Millay, illustrated by Beth Peek.

Visually stunning, I anticipated a lovely illustrated poem that Theo would enjoy, but waited until I had already driven home to fully read this one.

UH OH, thank goodness I read it first and I’m even more grateful that Theo can’t read at all.

I know I initially read it in high school, because as soon as I saw this page, the horror I had initially felt–returned.

A bedtime story? I think not. Not unless you want to seed some traumatic nightmares! I can’t imagine what kind of positive life lesson there could be here, can you?

I didn’t remember that it ended with the mom dying, having sacrificed her life for her son, and it’s not even that I DISAGREE with that concept because I believe a good parent should place her/his needs beneath those of the innocents we bring into this universe, BUT the guilt trip that little guy will most likely endure isn’t an equivalent value for having his loving mother ALIVE.

No wonder it appeared that this book looked as if it had never been touched.

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver

“Son,” said my mother,
   When I was knee-high,
“You’ve need of clothes to cover you,
   And not a rag have I.
“There’s nothing in the house
   To make a boy breeches,
Nor shears to cut a cloth with
   Nor thread to take stitches.
“There’s nothing in the house
   But a loaf-end of rye,
And a harp with a woman’s head
   Nobody will buy,”
   And she began to cry.
That was in the early fall.
   When came the late fall,
“Son,” she said, “the sight of you
   Makes your mother’s blood crawl,—
“Little skinny shoulder-blades
   Sticking through your clothes!
And where you’ll get a jacket from
   God above knows.
“It’s lucky for me, lad,
   Your daddy’s in the ground,
And can’t see the way I let
   His son go around!”
   And she made a queer sound.
That was in the late fall.
   When the winter came,
I’d not a pair of breeches
   Nor a shirt to my name.
I couldn’t go to school,
   Or out of doors to play.
And all the other little boys
   Passed our way.
“Son,” said my mother,
   “Come, climb into my lap,
And I’ll chafe your little bones
   While you take a nap.”
And, oh, but we were silly
   For half an hour or more,
Me with my long legs
   Dragging on the floor,
A-rock-rock-rocking
   To a mother-goose rhyme!
Oh, but we were happy
   For half an hour’s time!
But there was I, a great boy,
   And what would folks say
To hear my mother singing me
   To sleep all day,
   In such a daft way?
Men say the winter
   Was bad that year;
Fuel was scarce,
   And food was dear.
A wind with a wolf’s head
   Howled about our door,
And we burned up the chairs
   And sat on the floor.
All that was left us
   Was a chair we couldn’t break,
And the harp with a woman’s head
   Nobody would take,
   For song or pity’s sake.
The night before Christmas
   I cried with the cold,
I cried myself to sleep
   Like a two-year-old.
And in the deep night
   I felt my mother rise,
And stare down upon me
   With love in her eyes.
I saw my mother sitting
   On the one good chair,
A light falling on her
   From I couldn’t tell where,
Looking nineteen,
   And not a day older,
And the harp with a woman’s head
   Leaned against her shoulder.
Her thin fingers, moving
   In the thin, tall strings,
Were weav-weav-weaving
   Wonderful things.
Many bright threads,
   From where I couldn’t see,
Were running through the harp-strings
  Rapidly,
And gold threads whistling
   Through my mother’s hand.
I saw the web grow,
   And the pattern expand.
She wove a child’s jacket,
   And when it was done
She laid it on the floor
   And wove another one.
She wove a red cloak
   So regal to see,
“She’s made it for a king’s son,”
   I said, “and not for me.”
   But I knew it was for me.
She wove a pair of breeches
   Quicker than that!
She wove a pair of boots
   And a little cocked hat.
She wove a pair of mittens,
   She wove a little blouse,
She wove all night
   In the still, cold house.
She sang as she worked,
   And the harp-strings spoke;
Her voice never faltered,
   And the thread never broke.
   And when I awoke,—
There sat my mother
   With the harp against her shoulder
Looking nineteen
   And not a day older,
A smile about her lips,
   And a light about her head,
And her hands in the harp-strings
   Frozen dead.
And piled up beside her
   And toppling to the skies,
Were the clothes of a king’s son,
   Just my size.
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Gratitude + Joy

I don’t often post pictures of Angel Boy 2.0 because we are all protective of his image but every single time I look at this photo, it sets my world right again, so I thought I’d share it with my friends.

With hurricanes and floods and fires and murders and other toxic disasters that seem to engulf our consciousness lately, there’s the opposite and equally powerful tug of LOVE at our hearts and minds and souls and spirits.

He’s the reason why my sun rises every single day.

Pure in his magnificence, my heart softens and melts. And heals.

Just a boy and his Peppa the Pig plate full of a lentil burger, broccoli, hummus, and tomatoes.

Pure love. We all need a big dose it right about now.

theo peppa.JPG

Another Empty Nest, Another Sad Mom

Another empty nest

Poor mama bird, I know how she feels…

 

I found a broken shell from a newly hatched baby under the ficus tree. A pair of warbling vireos make a home year after year in this birdhouse.

 

It’s so sad that she puts all that work into building a nest and feeding her babies and they always fly away.

They always leave mommy. *sniff*

I guess that’s the way Mother Nature intended it to be, but it still sucks.

Facebook is full of moms who can’t wait until their children turn eighteen, almost pushing them out of the nest with a packed suitcase and a sigh of relief so they can resume their “lives”, but that’s not the way I feel about it.

As much as I’m bursting with pride at the independent and successful young professor he’s become, his bedroom is still quietly waiting — just as it always was, with fresh sheets on the bed, clean clothes in the closet, and his favorite books lined up on the shelf.

In the beginning, when he first left for college (years ago), the hardest thing to deal with was the silence — the QUIET was deafening. I have no idea how one child could fill up the space with his presence, but he did.

Now, nothing makes me happier than a call telling me he’s coming home for a visit (sigh) so I can load up on the ingredients for his favorite foods.

You know how mama birds feed their young, don’t you? They regurgitate partially digested insects and worms directly into the beaks of their babes.

I’m not THAT extreme, but you know what I mean.

It’s one of my greatest joys to watch my son eat.

I admit it. I do. I sit across from him at the table and soak it all in, every single mouthful.

(Don’t feel sorry for him, he’s used to it.)

And then he leaves again, and the quiet fills our house and our hearts.

Can you guess that I’m missing my Angel Boy right now?

On The Fourth of July – My Message to the Angry Mob in Murrieta, California

To the protesters…

You should all be ashamed of yourselves; you horrible, horrible people.

These are children. These are human beings.

There is too much hatred and abuse in this world – to animals in slaughterhouses, to our pets who trust us to love and care for them with compassion, to children who don’t deserve to be locked up in cages or left in cars to die in misery.

Think about THIS poem today on the 4th of July as you celebrate our country that offers you the freedom to scream at children who deserve food and shelter and running water.

What if this was YOUR family? Hmmm?

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

 Author: Emma Lazarus

 

A Wanted Child

I am of the opinion that the global interest (and/or disdain)  in the birth of Britain’s future king is really less about the trappings of wealth and royal life — the gene pool and history he’s born into –than our forlorn and seemingly irretrievable collective absence of moms and dads who devote their lives to their babies.

As happy as I am for the birth of George Alexander Louis, His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge. this newborn who will be king, it makes me equally as sad for all the babies born that are NOT going to be as loved or wanted or properly cared for or parented.

All babies should be as loved as this one, all children deserve to feel like a prince or a princess, not like an unwanted nuisance or an accessory to be displayed when it’s convenient –and ignored when it’s not.

All children should be gazed upon with unconditional love, devotion, and dedication.

Over the years, I’ve observed enough parent/child interactions to believe that we may have forfeited the desire and commitment to raising a brand new human with lifelong dedication and passion–and love.

The bond between parent and child is one of the strongest connections in nature –or it should be.

I was again reminded how that’s not always the case when my tugboat man and I were at Barnes and Noble in Orange County a couple days ago.

He had most kindly driven me to Chanel because I lost a screw in the hardware of my Grand Shopper Tote and their only method of replacement involved bringing the bag to them, which was most def NOT a hardship. LOL. My sweet hubs drove me ‘cos of the limited use of my still only semi-functioning left arm — three more weeks of this stupid cast…

After going to Chanel and browsing through as many other stores as his patience would allow (he obvs does not share my same passion to discover the treasure of a perfect wedge) his sanctuary was the bookstore whilst I continued my search at the Nord Outlet.

Unfortunately though, my heart’s desire was not to be realized that day — no wedge for me…so I walked next door and I found my mariner among the stacks of maritime-related books–sooo predictable.

As we waited in line to pay for his books, there was a mom and a boy who looked to be about four-years-old. He was talking to her — trying to talk to her — about toys, books, whatever, just the adorable stream-of-consciousness conversation of a little one — and he was being ignored.

Mom was scrolling through her smart phone, reading a text, responding to a text, all the while she selfishly sacrificed this glorious opportunity to “be present in the moment” with her bright little boy.

Finally, after several minutes of trying to elicit a response, to be heard, to be acknowledged, to garner her oh-so-valuable attention, he put his hand up as if to physically block her from seeing the phone and said in a resigned tone that left me no doubt he’s said this before;

“No phone, Momma, no phone. Me, Momma, ME.

No phone.”

At that point, she looked up, turned away from him, and responded,

“Just a minute. Just a minute. Stop. I’m almost done.”

By the crestfallen look on his face, it was too late.

The spark of light had gone out of his eyes.

Poof, just like that.

It was a precious moment forever lost.

Hubs and I shook our heads. We felt so sad for this boy and disgusted with his clueless mom.

Ah well, I feel like a dinosaur.

My Angel Boy was wanted and cherished — from the time I was a little girl, I wanted to be a mom — I knew that for me, there would be nothing more fulfilling than the joy caring for a baby and helping that new life grow; nurturing his interests, curiosity, and imagination.

His Montessori Kindergarten teacher once said to me (in her adorable French accent):

“Jay-sohn seez ze world een heez own way.”

Jason sees the world in his own way.

He still does, and I can think of no better validation of my job as his mom.

Were there bad and neglectful parents before the invention of technology and social media?

Of course there were.

It just seems as if phones and video games have become an overwhelming distraction — and the focus of daily existence. Caring for a home and family is pushed way down the list.

Our values are skewed — in my (unpopular) opinion.

Prince-William-and-Kate-royal-baby-2082438The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, gazing upon their newborn with such unabashed love, reminds me of a playground song:

“First comes love, then comes marriage.
Then comes a baby in a baby carriage.”

People who don’t want the serious and lifelong responsibility of having children should not have them.

It’s that simple.

Let’s treat our children like they’re the most special people in the world, OK?

I’m shouting this to the world in general…

“Moms and Dads, get off your phones!
Please, PAY ATTENTION to your children.
They’re more important than TWITTER,  FACEBOOK, or any other inanimate object.”

Being a mom is forever

The horrific tragedy in Colorado got me thinking about being a mother.

Before I even had my son, which was more than thirty years ago, a friend told me that after having children, “your life is not your own”. Ever again. And that is so true.

You are forever changed. Your job isn’t completed at the arbitrary age of eighteen or twenty-one, or even thirty-one.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my baby boy, what he’s doing at that exact moment, if he’s OK, and I wonder if there’s anything I should be worrying about.

Right now he’s in Berlin, teaching a summer immersion course in German. (Have I mentioned that he has a Ph.D. from Yale? Yeah, I’m an obnoxiously proud mom.)

I wonder about the young man’s mother, did they think that as long as he was in a Ph.D. program that they could now be finished with parental duties, breathe a sigh of relief, feel their work was done?

Having a child is a never-ending process.

Maybe this is a call to action for more attachment parenting, more involvement–not less. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I was probably a helicopter mom, probably still am, and now I feel even more certain about the rightness of my own parenting theories. Validated. My reward is hoping that if my son ever did have a psychotic break like this poor boy so obviously is suffering from, that I would have been aware of it, I would have felt it—somehow.

That’s not too far off.

I remember a few years ago I awoke from a bad dream where my son had broken his glasses and was wandering around, scared because he couldn’t see where he was. (He’s got pretty bad vision, thanks to me as it’s a cross-genetic recessive gene). He was on vacation in the UK at the time, and I emailed him as soon as I woke up, “…are you OK, had a bad dream, etc.”

When he called, he told me that same day he had fallen and broken his glasses and they were taped up, and he wished he had listened to me and brought an extra pair of glasses in case something like this happened.

The rest of the scenario is that his girlfriend’s (now wife’s) sister had taken him pub crawling and he was not a very experienced drinker and had more than he should have (I’m still upset about that!!)

Regardless, I knew he was in trouble and if I had not spoken with him, I would not have let it go, I would have made calls, not given up, and there is a real possibility that I would have even gotten on a plane.

I’m not kidding. I think my motto as a mom is to be “ever vigilant”.

This was not a one–time telepathic experience. I have these “feelings” every so often, and I’ve learned to not ignore them.

I don’t think I’m all that special, I think I just pay attention to things that a lot of people dismiss.

Anyway, I’m not diminishing the ghastly violent crime and the pain he caused so many families, not to mention the whole gun ownership debate, but I think there is a very sad explanation, and the young man who did it needs help.

He was once his mommy’s little boy and something went horribly, terribly wrong.