can i talk about mothers?

by tobias crabtree

may i? can i say some things about mothers? the question is rhetorical because i am going to say some things. if you don’t want to hear, tune out.  and if you don’t have time, then maybe read something else that is shorter, because i have quite a bit to say.

first of all, my mom. Alyce, with a “y”. she brought me here. she raised me. she fed me from her breast when i was little more than a light out of the void. i haven’t lived a day on this earth without being loved, not one day. not one second. my mother. i’m not talking about mothers because it is some day designated for us to all appreciate them. i’m talking about existence here. we would not BE without mothers; not me, not you…none of us. and my mother is special to me because i carry her DNA. when i feel, my mother feels; i’m quite sure of it. i have heard her say that she has failed and that she didn’t raise me right. i saw her cry when i was kicked out of school, when i got a tattoo, when i lied about drinking alcohol, when i told her i didn’t pray to jesus. i have broken my mother’s heart many times, and yet she loves me like the day i was born. my mother. yes, she shines and i know it and i would charge hell with a bucket of water for her. hey mom, i love you.

so there’s this thing i notice. since i’m a fella, i see things from a male perspective. i know what i love about women and it has less to do with the bed (and i love that part) than it has to do with the power they exude. i can say for sure that i never matured as a man until i learned to have women as my true friends; this excludes ulterior motives which are a part of being a man. it’s easy to want, what’s difficult is to recognize that desire and move past it, to find the important stuff beyond it.

i’m still talking about moms here. don’t let me lose you. when i swim in the ocean, and i do, i like to swim down deep. i love to dive down and hold my breath for as long as i can. when diving on a breath-hold there are moments where the whole world changes, the realness sinks in. there is no air except what is being carried in your lungs. you are swimming away from the source of breath and into that blue space below. there is a heartbeat and it is your own. there is a focusing in on the moment and the thoughts pinch down to the very essence of life. it is so godamn pure and honest. it is how i imagine a mother must feel in her soul as she gives birth; that pinching down to the moment.

now and then i see a mother with her children and i see the chaos of the world surrounding them. the children are usually playing, wonderfully oblivious. the mother can see what i see but through eyes that i do not have (i’ve not given breath to a child, nor have i carried them in my womb, nor have i worried that they might not live as they leave my body). the mother knows that the world is a dangerous place for her babies. in these moments i have looked at the mother, i have looked at her eyes and her steady hand, and i have been stayed. awestruck at the power as she dives down deep, finding her way through the blue.

i know a woman named Caroline. she is one of these women. she creates sculptures and drawings and paintings and words and children. she is one of the talented ones that i kneel to. i look at what she does and i smile and find my place somewhere in the audience. what amazes me is that she has those eyes; the eyes that are clear while the world leaps and lunges at her children. she holds her kids and shows them the way and the love that lifts the world and then she allows them the freedom that is needed to become something. she is Caroline.

there is Chris. she bore rowan. she is the woman that married ethan. i haven’t met a family that is similar. i have known them since rowan was very young, i think 3 years old. i’m in some of their old  family videos being a fool (so easy for me). Chris has loved me through all my recklessness. she has seen me crash and burn to the ground numerous times. even in the midst of my groanings, i have seen her love her boys. she loves her man and she loves her son…that is all she needs. it’s simple when you think about it.  life is sweet to Chris because her love rebounds off her family. she is a savage mom and she gets what she gives. she has rolled into her 40’s  and is beautiful and lean and strong. she is a perfect roll model for her men. her arms flex, her eyes squint, her plants grow and life lays out in front of her like a desert road.

there is Farah. she married my kid brother. i loved her from the beginning. i have never entered her house without feeling welcome. (i should interject that i am a hot mess much of the time…if i’m not smelling like a dog and looking like the road i’ve traveled, then i’m something worse) she has brought two strong boys into this world, tucker and mason. they will carry me when i’m old. her husband, joshua, has always been the better version of me. i cannot carry the torch he holds…it’s just impossible. so i give way and love the lives that i’m allowed to be so close to. i know it sounds like i’m gushing, but come on, i know the skin i live in and i’m being honest here. what’s better than salt of the earth? look into the eyes of my brother’s wife. my brother is my blood, and he’s married to a woman named Farrah.

there is Malia. she almost died. she has been a single mom for a good portion of her life. she dove into alcohol and spent years swimming away from shore. Malia and i have always been close; we are friends and then there’s that whole brother and sister thing. one night my brother called me, he told me she had wrecked and the doctors didn’t think she’d make it. i said i’d come. the hospital–home of strained faces and worried brows and clenched fists and teary eyes.. and time and time and tears and struggle and broken limbs and pelvis’s and ribs and hearts and then anger and hope and prayer,  seizures and pills and wheelchairs and letters and sweat and doctors and Mary Oliver and Andrew Bird and love and love and love has brought my sister back. she is bad-ass. i love her. she loves me. she is a mother made from steel.

there is that mama i saw on the street in lima, peru. the child on her back and the one in the gutter. she was spinning wool and making sweaters. her face was tough and clear, like she knew something bigger than the world around her. there is patience in that kind of struggle because the alternative is to give your babies over to oblivion.  she looked way stronger than me…she had a white hat on and her eyes were very black when she looked at me.

there are a million mamas in the past. there are mothers who gave up. there are ones that did not love their babies. there are bad mamas. but i believe in the power of the mothers. they are the engine of mankind. i picture some place full of souls that are waiting for their bodies to be formed in the belly of a woman. there is a kind of joining and the world gains another little human that makes thoughts and conjures dreams, just like the ones of us who’ve been here for a while, thinking and dreaming. the closest we humans ever come to being god is when a mother brings a baby in from the big swirling soup of the universe.

i am not disillusioned about mankind. i don’t know if we will make it in the long run, i have my doubts. i am, at times, disgusted with my own ability to disconnect, so you can imagine how i feel when i turn a critical eye toward the masses.  all the two-leggeds running around finding our escapes from reality; our pills and liquor and fits of anger. we will smoke our cigarettes with amazing diligence and then calmly toss the butts into the streams and oceans without so much as a second thought. i can find all kinds of things to rant about but that’s not going to fix things. instead, i’ll find the things about us that i like. i turn my thoughts to Mom. i think about the Mothers and there is a kind of redemption to us being here. and after we have come and gone from this planet, whether it’s tomorrow or in a 100,000 years, the Moms will have been the soul of our existence.