“Dorothy is the name of my surrogate mother,” she says to me as I finish telling my story and sharing my song about the place that is so special to me and about my maternal grandmother.
“Oh, did you know her name means ‘gift from God’?”
“Oh, that’s cool. She is definitely that to me.”
The lovely woman speaking to me currently lives in a women’s shelter for reasons I don’t fully know.
I sit in a circle of women. All of us come to the circle with our stories. I have the guitar and I am there to “entertain” them that night. I knew as I was preparing to go there that I would end up in tears at some point. I did not know that the tears would be once again brought on by the topic of my mother.
She has been absent from my life since 1982. Why do I still have tears? Why did I feel the need to dedicate my album to her? Why did her decision to leave have such a great impact on my life and why do I continue to feel the aftershocks?
The women ask me questions about if I remember her and how I felt when she died. This was not what I planned to talk about. They ask if I ever wrote a song for her.. “well, yes, but it was on the piano and I haven’t sung it in a very long time.. I can try.”
I fumble around on the guitar and between the awkward chord changes and the breaks in my voice from raw emotion, I manage to share the song. When I finish, one of them pipes up right away, “Do you have this recorded? People need to hear this! It would resonate with so many.. what you described in your song is what I longed to feel from my mother.. and she was there, but we were never close.”
Mother, I’d like to talk with you, to laugh with you, to cry with you,
To talk of things that make you smile,
To know you as a friend and as your child,
Are your arms open for me at all? Will you sing me to sleep?
Later on I say, “I continue to be amazed at how important mothers and fathers are. I recently had something go down with my father that made me realize how much I still want his approval and how important his voice is to me. I realized that I could have all the success in the world, but if I lose touch with my father I will not feel satisfied.”
I also recently had a beautiful conversation with my stepmom that made me realize how important her voice is too. She came along after our family had been without a mother figure for eight years. We had a family system that seemed to be working fine. Haha.. it looked kind of like this:
My father and brother had pretty strong personalities and made the decisions. They fought every once in a while. I chose pretty early on I guess that I better survive by not feeling anything, so I was very emotionally disconnected. Everything was “fine”, or “oh sure, doesn’t matter..”.
Except in the food department. This makes me laugh. I think maybe my body had to find one area of control.. one little way that it could rebel and not go with the flow. So, I literally could not swallow certain foods. Mashed potatoes.. gag reflex. Collard greens.. gag reflex. I tried. I really did want to be a good girl and clean my plate, but I literally could not swallow that food. This created many dinner time battles that my brother and I remember quite vividly, and I know were a great source of frustration for my dad.
So, along comes my stepmom who was ready to fully embrace motherhood. She saw some of these unhealthy patterns and slowly tried to introduce some new ones. I saw her as the villain. She rocked the boat. I didn’t know she was fighting for me to find my voice. I thought that any opinion that went against my dad’s was a scary one. She told me she would ask me where I wanted to eat for lunch, and I would shrug. So, she would narrow it down to three choices and patiently wait for me to finally make a decision. I don’t remember this process. I now greatly appreciate hearing what she did for me.
I’m still trying to find my voice. I still have a hard time making decisions, but I am getting much better at it. I am very thankful that I have family and friends who are cheering me on as I become more of a human being (complete with feelings and opinions.. what?!!). I’m now becoming so self aware that I need to take a lot of naps.. haha. As my friend Stacy said the other day, “taking notice is exhausting”. Yep.
Mothers and fathers are important. If you are a parent, please make effort to be very present for your children. Sometimes that means you have to care for yourself first (put on your own oxygen mask before assisting another). If you are a child (which we all are, obviously), please take notice of your story and see how it has shaped you and see if there are areas that need attention.
And, as my Dorothy trees sing to me, may you find your own song that tells you “of a Love that will never let you go”.
Visit me here to find out how you can listen to my Dorothy song: