Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Two Moms

Today many of us are taking the time to thank our mother's and reflect upon the incredible impact they have had on our lives. I have been fortunate to be able to call two incredible women ‘mom'.

The first is obvious- my biological mother Cookie- a singularly unique woman. Mom has lived a life worthy of Bilbo Baggins- from meeting Barry Goldwater, and being featured in the newspaper for her trained rabbit to being the only girl at a Boy Scout summer camp; her life has never been ordinary. My mother graduated 3rd in her class from high school in and went to UC Berkley as a pre-med student. She left school to move to Tahoe-Donner and worked with her best friend as a maid to be able to afford to spend all her free time at the nude beaches, or tooling around Lake Tahoe in her 1966 Mustang. Eventually mom moved down to Reno where she began dealing cards and met my father. She travelled and backpacked in the mountains with only her dog. She did these things alone, and without fear. She rode motorcycles, camped and four-wheeled- my mother has always lived her life with enthusiasm. She discovered Burning Man, and jumped in feet first. She raised two daughters who both graduated from high school and went out into the world independent and assured of their ability to do whatever they put their minds to. And she steered us through the loss of my father, refusing to let us pull apart or give up on one another.

My ‘other mother’ lacks the button eyes or malevolence of the Beldan- she isn’t my mother at all, but my ex-husband and sister-in-law have been kind enough to share her with me since 2000. Karen Hardie was raised in Illinois, in the Chicago area, by her paternal grandparents- first generation Swedish immigrants. She and her sister grew up caught between two generations, apart from her mother and father who were too young to give them the life that was best for them. She lived an urban life, but had great stories of the trips to the family farm outside the city. When she took her driver’s test, the examiner passed her only if she promised to never drive. She married and divorced her first husband, and then drive she did- all the way to Reno. When you first met her, she could seem cautious, pragmatic, and slightly out of time- she had a wild streak to her- she was fierce and bold. She met her second husband and married him within 3 months. She worked nights, days, all hours to help support her family. She raised two children who both graduated from high school with honors, and completed college degrees. She made every holiday, and every occasion magical. She sewed and crocheted, and always cooked rich, hearty meals enough to feed armies. Every year she baked some 50 varieties of Christmas cookies and generously passed out to family, friends, and acquaintances- when she met me, she began labeling the cookies with cinnamon in them with little skulls and crossbones so I would know to avoid them. When my husband and I announced our separation, she called me and told me I would always be her daughter. She helped me make my father’s burial arrangements, plan my father’s funeral, and told dirty limericks at his wake. While she didn’t ‘raise’ me, there is no other person who has had an impact on me like her.

We lost Karen to an unexpected infection in July of 2010, and my mother had a heart attack that required hospitalization and surgery this March; I almost had to celebrate this Mothers’ Day without either mother. I never needed Karen more than when I sat by my mother’s hospital bed. I may not be able to call her anymore, but she is there in my head, guiding me, and I remember her today, for the incredible woman she was, and the incredible woman she saw in me. And while my mother and I may drive each other crazy- me nagging her to eat right and to call me, her complaining I’m always bossing her around- I wouldn’t know how to be me without her. Today I will raise a glass, in memory of one mother, and with a grateful heart to still have another. Here is to the future that mother’s weave for their children, and the promises with which they build the world.