“One of these things is not like the other”- do you remember that song from Sesame Street?
While interactions on social media are never the same, there is a common thread that runs through what happens on Laundry Line Divine and on the other platforms I participate in, like Twitter and Instagram. I am fascinated with connections. I am intrigued by the stories of mothering. I am intrigued by the patterns we make in our lives, what we return to again and again and when and what we learn new and relish, a new vista, a new flavor, a new photography app.
There are things that happen on Face book that I never imagined enjoying.
This month the building I lived in for six years in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan was demolished. As the nymphs of social media would have it, a woman who was in my Powder Keg Sessions, who happens to live in Portland, Oregon but was in the Berkshires on a certain Sunday last fall, got wind of this small factoid as it scrolled by on my news feed. Well, this woman, Margaret, has a good friend, who lives opposite my old apartment building. While she was in Manhattan this week, Margaret snapped a photo of the space that was the building in which I lived with my former beau. There has been quite a funny banter on Facebook including this man, who I love being connected to in the Face book way we are- loosely but within a distance to enjoy his humor. Now, the place where we once made Thanksgiving dinners and fed cats and organized a rent strike is a pile of rubble.
Without Face book, this connection would not have been made, linking my former life on 25th Street and 8th Avenue with a new writing student who has a penchant for laundry lines and vintage stamps and sends me little missives full of gifts. Nor would I have found a comfortable social relationship with my former partner. Aside from a funeral for a common friend perhaps, I don’t know where we would have connected.
I have met many amazing women on social media. Many of the contributors to An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice and the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series are women I met through Twitter or on other blogs, or on Huffington Post. One such author, Amanda Magee, who lives with her family in the Adirondacks and worked at the Williamstown Theatre Festival for several seasons, writes today’s Out blog post. She and her husband have a set of Huff-Po blog posts written together that are cause to get up off the couch and go hug your partner. You can read Amanda’s response to “What do mothers make?” post here. I will include links to her Huffington Post pieces there.
Social media has it gifts. This past Monday I got to have a real live visit with a dear friend and collaborator, Lori Landau. Familiar to readers of the Anthology and the Out blog series, Lori lives with her family in northern New Jersey. I was passing through her area and stopped for a whole afternoon of slow wandering through a park near her home. Long walk and talk, sharing book forms and parenting thoughts. Her daughter is just south of mine in age and her challenges are ones I have lived with for a year or so. We dove right in to conversation, relying heavily on all the threads we have woven in to friendship through social media, emails, texts, real live mail and art sent back and forth, as if all those lines of intersection weave something tangible. Looking in to Lori’s eyes, I would say very tangible.
Writing about being a mother is dicey. You write, freely I hope, with no editor on your shoulder, just letting the stories flow. Later, when you look over your writing, you decide whether you have told yours or someoneelse’s story. That is how I decide whether what I have written is mine to share. When I publish something that includes my kids I always run it past them.
So, last night, I had a surprise. In my Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions we have been experimenting with the blazon, a form of poem that is a list of attributes of another. I learned about it from Monica Devine. In its medieval roots, it was a roster of praise for a woman, starting from the top down. Over time and with a dose of irreverence from William Shakespeare and many others, the form retains is roster of attributes aspect but has come to include wry pathos and revelation.
I wrote one last week that has been simmering in my writing mind. I was itching to share it with you all, as I prepare for teaching a Writing Motherhood writing workshop in June. So, while my girl was preparing to go for a run last evening, I read it to her. I just blasted open whatever reticence I had about exposing my tender heart to her and a potentially personal moment in her abundantly sweet life.
She stood in the doorway to this studio listening. I picked my way through the lines I thought she might take issue with and cruised to the end, expecting her standard, “Oh god Mom, you can’t say that”. But, because she is not standard in any way, her response was a deep flush of pleasure and she beamed at me.
And without asking, she said I was free to share it.
In honor of this week and loving daughters, every single girl, each of us, daughters and sons, and the loving gaze that mothers hold us each in, no matter which realm those gazes issue from, I give you my Blazon for Catherine.
Please be tender with yourselves these days.
Find a live person to go hug and share an appreciation with.
Social media brings us together but what glues us takes breath and skin and the mingling of fingers in to a grip that is unforgettable.
Blazon for Catherine
Catherine the Great.
Catherine the girl.
Catherine my Fluffy Angel who leaves teabags drying into
crispy dead bats in the bottoms of long ago supped tea cups,
her rosebud lips with a staining pale birthmark over the
upper left petal,
drew comment from a very opinionated neighbor, that
oval of color rises when she is furious or
when she is flushed with pleasure as she was
one summer night, arriving after her curfew, confessing to
making out in the parking lot of the appointed place where
she was to meet her older brother and be safely transported home,
he, who texted and paced and prowled looking for his little sister,
Catherine, Cath, Cat, is the little sister, a strong beautiful
quiet storm of a sister, who, that night,
stretched in to the arms of a tall boy
who kissed her til that mark raged red and
here she, Catherine, the young woman flushed at the
foot of our bed apologizing and fearful we will take
away her new found, enpinkening freedom.
Catherine who works harder than most to
overcome what she sees as a lack.
Whose “tiny writing” fills pages of her little books but now,
whose writing, big words typed by long fingers
Catherine the smart, the able, the curious,
the persistent as a raccoon in the trash,
ass over head with her nose in a book
or baking vegan zucchini bread
or sussing out a social conundrum.
This girl is a sucker for a thrift shop.
Catherine is a seller of squash and a bagger of lettuce,
rows of community supported lettuce, spun neatly in to a plastic sack
and sold on sunny summer Saturday mornings.
Catherine is market-fresh, this girl and she is mine.
May 1, 2014
Suzi Banks Baum
Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions
Love your friends.
Love your mothers.
Love those kids, Nigerian, Amanda’s, Lori’s, Margaret’s, yours and my own.