My Big News

Dear Loyal Blog Readers,

I made something.

It’s not perfect — far from it — and putting myself out here like this makes me feel vulnerable and uncertain and insecure, but I know it’s important to follow through and so that’s what I’m doing.  I’m actually really and truly following through, which is, part of my mantra for myself this year: Seeing Something Through for Myself.

So with that, I’ll just go ahead and let you know before I chicken out that you can now find my blog at  my new website:

www.reginatingle.com

I hope to see you there.  I also hope that if you like my site, you’ll share it with everyone you know.

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Regina

How New Zealand Has Changed Me

It’s my last morning in New Zealand.

As ready as I am to leave, I’m also scared of leaving.  Leaving worries me because I know that this time spent still like this has changed me in profound ways I have yet to understand.  I won’t have a way to quantify those changes until I depart New Zealand and spend some time away from it.

I’ve been officially removed from the rat race for so long I’m not sure I’ll understand anything anymore.  I wonder if I’ll have to readjust to a fast-paced world with a clenched jaw, just as I reluctantly adjusted to the slow island-time of life in New Zealand.  How has my time here changed me?  Has this experience prepared me for what’s next or will I be left ill-prepared?

I don’t know.

All I know is I’ve done things here in New Zealand that I would have never done elsewhere.  Like hiked a glorious peak ten times in the last twelve days.  Gone to bed religiously before nine o’clock.  Eaten in for every single meal for months on end, not even so much as buying a cup of coffee out.  (Eating out is expensive here and the service is so slow it’s rarely worth it.)

I’ve sat still more, and for longer.  I took a mindfulness course.  Picked grapes for six weeks.  Went white-water rafting and was flushed down the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall.  I’ve written on a daily basis.  That to me is the biggest miracle New Zealand has produced for me–giving me sufficient time, taking away the distractions of the world and just allowing for simplicity.  Living this forced simplistic life has compelled me to be more disciplined, more consistent.  Somewhere in these months I learned a hard-earned lesson about loyalty to myself and to my craft.

I hope I don’t forget it.

This is why I’m scared to leave New Zealand.  I’m afraid I’ll get distracted.  I’m fearful that I’ll lose the focus I worked so hard to achieve here.  I’m afraid I’ll suddenly have less time to devote to writing and blogging because I’ll be too busy living.  I’m afraid I’ll again feel pulled in a million directions instead of just being content, not resigned, to where I am for the present moment.

If anything, New Zealand taught me how to stop racing forward and quit constantly looking back.  Being here taught me how to settle with a deep breath, still, relax into the moment. As I fly over the Tasman today, I know I’ll feel sad at leaving this greenscape dappled with unconcerned sheep.  But I know it’s time.  My career as a grape-picker is over.  Summer’s over.  Autumn is announcing itself in full-blast crimson, ocher and orange.  Everything has run out–the summer, my lease, my shampoo, my conditioner, my hair mousse, my facial moisturizer.  All signs say: time to go.

Next stop: Australia’s Gold Coast for ten days.  After that, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.  After that, Europe.  After that, I don’t know.  This is theme, isn’t it?  I Don’t Know.  Unsolicited Certainties.

I can’t even begin to predict what I’ll miss about New Zealand.  I’ve learned that it’s never the things we think it will be.  If I were to predict what I think I’ll miss, I’d take a gander and say I’ll probably miss the very things I loathe about this place right now.  Like the way the shops close at 4:30, the nothingness there is to do.

Yet, I know I’ve adapted more than I like to admit. (Scary.)

I will miss getting up at 5am and feeling refreshed and fully restored because I went to bed at eight.

I will miss the sheep and their stoic glances as I trod up the peak in the morning.

I will miss the playful tuis, swooping dangerously close, flapping their feather-fluffed wings loudly, unlike any other bird I’ve ever heard.

There are things I say I miss about the outside world.  Things like museums and the bustle and hustle of a nearby metropolis.  Or things like looking through shop windows and seeing people with shoes on.  Even if I didn’t take advantage of all those things on a regular basis, I miss having the luxury of having the option. I’m sure I’ll miss having the luxury of NOT having the option soon enough.

In my adult life, I’ve never been as stationary as I have been in the last nine months. I’ve never traveled more than twenty minutes by car to go anywhere. I can count on two fingers the last time I sat at a stop light in the last three months.  (There are roundabouts here.  Roundabouts, yield signs and stop signs.)   I’ll miss endless roundabouts without a traffic light in sight.

I’ll miss the quiet, still nights.

I’ll miss hearing the rain gush over the tin roof.photo(16)

I’ll miss the tin roof.  The way the birds hop loudly around up there at dawn, basking in the sun, waking the house up.

I’ll miss the views that unfurl in every direction.

I’ll miss living as if it were still the 80s.  People still actually ask whether or not you have internet and an email address.  People still use home phones more than mobile numbers and people still use answering machines that you can hear throughout the house.

I’ll miss the fierceness of the sun and how it warms everything fifteephoto(17)n degrees in an instant, causing the house to creak.

I’ll actually even miss my ’88 Nissan that I bought for $450NZ and just sold for $250NZ.

Today was my last hike up Te Mata Peak.  I think when I started doing these hikes I had complicated intentions.  I believed the physical difficulty was going to teach me some big lesson.  I set out to do these hikes as a way to live part of my mantra of this year, which is (I think I’ve mentioned) to “see something through for myself.”  But in these last few hikes, I’ve realized it’s not so much about me, or even challenging myself to follow through or explore resistance.  It’s about something far more simple than all that.  It’s about paying tribute to the moment and to that which is available to you in that moment.  It’s about honoring something instead of taking it for granted.  It’s about not wanting more or wishing for something different or thinking about being somewhere else.

This morning as I hiked there was a light mist shrouding the peak.  There was a streak of rainbow beyond the sheep, lighting the valley.  As I hiked for the last time, I was filled with something I can only describe as gratitude.  A full, overwhelming awe at how totally and completely thankful I am to have spent this time here in this far-flung magical place.  With each steep step upward, I felt gratefulness and thanksgiving with my whole body.  Gratefulness for the moment and for the last nine months.  Not a lick of fright for what’s to come.  The Peak taught me that.  New Zealand taught me that.  And that, to me, feels like an achievement, a pencil etching against the doorway that marks my growth.

At the top, breathless, I stretched my arms out, speechless.  All I can say is I won’t miss you, New Zealand.  I’ll long for you.  And for that, I should say thank you.  Or, as the Kiwis would simply say, ta.

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With the Horizon of the Pacific in the Distance: Scenes from my morning hikes

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Facts about my daily morning hikes to Te Mata Peak:

I see far more sheep than people

I step on lots of sheep turds

It is quiet except for the whorl and gurgle of New Zealand’s native Tui

It takes me about an hour and forty-five minutes, round trip to complete (I hike up and jog down)

Sometimes the hillside is so steep the fence is sideways

I often find fossils of shells embedded into the rock which serve as reminders that where I’m walking, high above the shoreline, was actually once underwater.

A view like that feels otherworldly, like something happened and you’re in heaven or on another planet (called New Zealand).

Each day the colors slightly change–brown is becoming green and green is becoming brown.  The dry land from the drought is slowly becoming greener, the green leaves of the trees are taking on a yellow-brown tinge.

When I look out at the Pacific in the distance, it’s hard to conceive that the next closest country is Chile.

If I could bottle these hikes up, I would.  I would send them to everyone I know as a Christmas card.

Resistance Slut

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Yesterday I made a decision to take a hike up to the top of Te Mata Peak.  It’s the most exhilarating 360-degree view I’ve ever experienced.  As you ascend, your soul takes flight with the view.  The majestic hills to your right, the glistening Pacific to your left miles away, you get up there and nearly hyperventilate from nature’s gobsmacking perfect beauty.  It’s so otherworldly you could just weep.

Now, here’s something I’m sorry to admit: I’ve lived just down the road from this view for the last ten months and I’ve only hiked this a few times, gosh dang it.

Yes, I am an ungrateful, unworthy nimwit.  A total cop out coward for not making time for this view every single day of my life while in New Zealand.  But yesterday, I told my knucklehead self, it wasn’t too late.  I could still make the most of this view for every single day I’m still here.

So that was that.  There was no arguing with that thought.  No sooner had I thought it did I committ to hiking the peak every day for the next ten days.  Rain or shine.

Fast forward a day.

This morning wasn’t awake but ten seconds before I remembered my grand idea.  I rolled over, acutely aware of the warmth of the bed, the softness of the down comforter, the quietness of the entire world, still probably sound asleep.  It was all telling me that what I said yesterday was no better than a promise made by a drunkard: it didn’t count.  But deep down, I knew it was too late to change my mind.  I’m doing this.  I said I would and now I’m going to.  If I don’t, I’ll regret it for weeks or years and probably maybe even forever.

Slightly incredulous I was actually going to do this hike for a second day in a row, I set out, less than half-hearted about it.  Half way up the hill, my sorry little ego started slamming me with reasons to head back down the trail.

It might rain.

It’s so windy!

Your shins are still sore from yesterday.

Your calves might explode. 

You’re starving.

You’re really thirsty!

You have to pee.

You might have to poop soon and there’s nowhere to go.

The chatter was endless.  I was being barraged!  I stopped walking, stopped listening, shifted my senses away from my measly self and onto the stunning surroundings.  All of the sudden, clarity pushed forth into sparkling view.

Here’s the banner it read off to my pesky inner “I can’t” voice:

This hike — this one and the next eight of them you’ll complete — will be a lesson in resistance training.  It will be an exercise of self-observation.  You will watch how your mind throws tricks at you to get you to stop whatever it is you’re working so hard at actually accomplishing.  You will witness how your body physically responds.  You will observe, acknowledge and go forward anyway. 

(The echoing sound of Gregorian monks chanting amen.)

The wind blew.  I pulled my hood over my ears and looked up.  I was within view of the highest point.  Which is when I heard myself say, “This is far enough.  You can turn around now.”

This is the thing with resistance.  It’s like a smooth talking good looking man; always finding new ways to get us to do it.  It’s so easy to be easy.  It’s so tempting to be a slut to resistance.

My legs were burning, my gluts felt like they might give out but I pressed forward, restating my vow to do this again and again every single morning before I leave.  I was newly resolved: I will not be a resistance slut.  I will not be a resistance slut.  I will not be a resistance slut.  This was my mantra, over and over again as I continued up the steep, muddy path.

A few minutes later I was at the top.  I made it.  Without collapsing from dehydration, without even crapping myself.  Hike number two of my ten day peak challenge was complete.

On my way back down the mountain I thought a lot about this little bugger called resistance.  I’ve succumbed to it for so long, for so many things, in so many ways.  Without really even knowing it!  It’s an easy thing to do.  Or so I thought.  At first it feels easy, but later you come off the easy high and it makes you feel stagnant, bored, wasted.  You feel as though you’re losing out on life and, like me, most of the time you don’t even know why.  All you know is that you’ve gotten really dang good at criticizing everyone else.

Resistance, if you relent to it, can be a source of total misery.

The book, The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield talks about this.  Mostly with regard to writing but it’s very applicable to everything else, too.  In fact, I just found these twelve tips and reread them.  I say “re” read because I’ve read them at least ten dozen times before.  I could memorize them and still, resistance would find the path between my knowing and my doing.  This reminds me of the old Italian saying, “Tra dire e fare c’e’ un mezzo mare.”  It’s a catchy, rhyming phrase that means, “Between saying and doing lies half an ocean.”  Which obviously doesn’t sound as fab in English but is to say that saying you’ll do something is far different than actually doing it.  I suppose our version of this saying would be “actions speak louder than words.”  But that sounds duh-worthy and ho-hummy.

Seeking the root of resistance is a challenging but valuable exercise.  And honestly?  It might be all in vain.  Why?  Because I know that as soon as I get this conquered (or think I’ve conquered it) there will be yet another lesson to learn.  That, I realized not while climbing the peak but — get this — while merely walking up the slight incline of the driveway.

Still, if all my major revelations revolved around a driveway, I wouldn’t have gotten to see this mangy, sweet face.

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to take (oneself) to a distance

“Everyone has deep in their heart the old town or community where they first went barefooted, got their first licking, traded the first pocket knife, grew up and finally went away thinking they were too big for that Burg.  But that’s where your heart is.” — Will Rogers

Because I’m leaving New Zealand, this quote got me thinking about every other burg I’ve ever came upon then left.  Houston, Texas; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Dallas, Texas; Lubbock, Texas; Dallas again and most recently, Perugia: the Italian burg where I spent my twenties living, loving and eating.

There is a tendency to think or feel, after you spend a good chunk of time in one place, that you’ve outgrown it.  Familiarity can sometimes breed that kind of stale boredom.  But Rogers is right; wherever there are firsts, you’ll inevitably leave your heart.

While I have been naiive to this before, I am not unwise to this now.  I’m fully conscious of it, keeping it in the forefront of my mind for the next fifteen days as I conclude my eleven-month stint of life in New Zealand.  For however ready I am to finally leave this lush, sheep and bird filled island, I know there will be a lot I will long for.  Now that I know it so well, I see with clarity how it used to be, before it was known to me.  What it was to me when I first arrived, in its unknown state.

When I first came here I thought I was going to start my REAL life.  You know, get a REAL job, settle down and just do my best to fit into that REALity everyone else seems to be doing just fine in.  But by January, I REALized that whatever plans existed in my head weren’t going to happen.  Something else happened instead.

Acceptance.

I woke up, accepted my life for what it is and stopped trying to make it into something it isn’t.

Ever since I gave up the pipe dream of being like everyone else, it has changed me in a profound way.  When I resigned to comparing myself and my successes (or lack thereof) to everyone else and finally accepted that who I am and where I’ve gone and what I’ve done in my life isn’t lesser than what anyone else has accomplished but just different, I started to feel lighter.  I do not think I would have ever gotten here, to this lighter place of self-acceptance, had I not spent the last ten to eleven months wrestling it out way over here in quiet, beautiful New Zealand.

In a lot of ways I was fully conscious of the reasons why I came here:

To heal

To grow

To seek a new adventure

To put as much distance possible between myself and the geographical location of where I experienced pain.

But there’s what we set out to do and what we actually end up doing.  There’s living happily ever after and then there’s getting a divorce.  There’s intention and then there’s actuality.  Fill in the blanks however you see fit.

Back before I started grape picking and still had time to play Scrabble on Facebook, I learned a new word.  Eloign.  The first definition is “to remove or carry away to a distance.  Especially so as to conceal.”  The second definition is “to take (oneself) to a distance.”

Let’s see if I can use that word correctly in a sentence:

I’ve eloigned myself to New Zealand.

While that’s maybe what I did, I certainly didn’t know I was doing that at the time, much less realize there’s an archaic English term for it.

What I came here to do was start over.  Or, rather, what I thought I came here to do was start over. But there was a whole lot more to it than that.  Starting over was a given, an understood.  A built-in component of the general process.  It wasn’t really necessary to even bring it into the discussion.  It’s like taking a step and telling your knee it’s going to have to bend if it’s going to enable you to walk.  It’s just an integral part of the motion.

What I ended up doing was learning how to tell my story.

But to learn how to tell my story, I first had to learn how to accept my story, and all its comprised of as just a mere smidgeon part of me–not who I am as a whole.  I had to learn how to be myself without carrying around my shame.  I had to learn how to not wear “divorce” around as if it were a label attached to the lapel on the coat of my identity.  And before I could learn how to do all that I had to realize, first, that I was actually doing that.  I had no clue that’s what I’d been doing until one day, I found myself sitting in an American expat’s living room, staring at her dead dog’s altar above the mantel of her fireplace.

The first time I went over to her house she closed the front door behind me and said, “Hey, want a Dr. Pepper?” as if it were a spliff.  “They just started selling it here in the local supermarket.”

This woman, who I’ll affectionately call Wanda, dragged me aside, away from the other locals when she first time met me.  In a low, hushed voice she said, “This is not America, kid.  They might look like us, they might speak English, but you’re not in the States.”

First I wanted to laugh in her face then I wanted to cry on her shoulder.

That I wasn’t in Kansas anymore was not shocking to me.  What shocked me were the intricacies of newness.  What shocked me was to be somewhere outside of Europe, far far away from Italy, from everyone I knew and from anyone who knew me at all.

Wanda was telling me all she knew about being an expat in New Zealand.  She was trying to clue me in, do me a favor.  But she didn’t know me.  Nor did I know her.  Some of the stuff she was telling me was stuff I already knew.  I felt like a stomping my foot — a petulant teenager — and saying, “You don’t know what I’ve been through.”  But what I’d been through, as in my past experiences, mistakes, decisions–for better or for worse–newsflash to me, didn’t really matter to Wanda.  Not that she didn’t care.  It’s just that she didn’t to know those things to help her decide whether or not she would be my friend.  I was sorta blind to that because, well, I’d just arrived on this planet.  There I was, telling her about my past and there she was telling me about her past, too–her dead dog and the dead dog’s ancient brother, barely getting by, blind, deaf and on doggy dialysis.  We were showing each other our pieces.  Divorce, death, dogs.  (I’m pretty sure the dog represented far more than what the surface suggested).  Yet still, none of that really mattered.  What mattered, was that she was nice enough to offer me a Dr. Pepper.  A gesture of familiarity.  A kind offering of common ground.

Back then sipping Wanda’s DP made me feel as though this world was weirder than I ever thought it could get.  And I was in it.  Swimming, treading in its deep waters, gulping it up by mistake, trying to make sense of where I was, why I was and how I’d get a grip amid all this newness.  Like a child dropped off at a new daycare, I must have missed my mom because I thought of what she’d say.  My mother, who knows more clichés than anyone I’ve ever known, would say, “Where ever you go, there you are.”

But this is different.  This is not wherever.  This is eloignment.  (Yes, I just made that word up.)  If you’ve ever experienced being eloigned, you’ll know how liberating anonymity can be.  You’ll know how it feels not to have your identity associated with anyone else–not as their sister, their daughter, their wife or ex-wife.  You can just be you.  You’ll know just how liberating and just how terrifying that can be.  There’s quite the learning curve involved.

When I first came here to the far-flung corner of the Earth, I assumed it would all be new to me and as usual, my assumptions were way off.  Even in far-flung unfamiliarity you find obscure connections.  One day I think I’m signing up to go pick grapes with local pensioners and the next day I’m picking grapes with Austin from Oklahoma and Alice from Italy.

What ended up being new to me was, well, me.

If anything, good ol’ En Zed has provided me with a new way of seeing myself.  The people I’ve encountered have not been strangers at all but more like companions along my journey, people on their own similar excursion.   They’ve hailed from familiar places of my past, here in the now to hold up a larger mirror in front of me, allowing me to see a less fragmented version of myself and what’s around me.  They have given me sight to an added dimension of what’s been there all along but just hadn’t been able to see.

New Zealand, if it were a burg, would be where I first learned not to let my past define me.  Thanks to its distant geographical location, it’s the first and only place that’s managed to force me to sit still for eleven whole months.  I’m grateful to have had that time here in this isolated burg, a place I’ll forever associate with process and healing.  A place of eloignment, to be removed or carried away to a distance.  A place so far removed and disconnected it allowed me to come full circle and reconnect.  Reconnect, accept and start over.  Not as someone else but as me.  All of me.

Surely, there must be a word for that.

The Gigantic Magnifying Glass and Matching Midgets

Easter Sunday does not so much conjure memories of Easter egg hunts, chocolate bunnies and pastel-colored peeps as it does going to mass dressed exactly like my sister, Jess.  Easter, for me as a kid, meant a frilly dress, fold-down socks and terribly uncomfortable patent leather shoes. 

I’ve always hated patent leather and I’ve never liked peeps.  You can only imagine how happy I was to dress up exactly like my kid sister. 

One of those years in the infamously unfashionable 80s, our Easter dresses were red and white striped and came with the excellent accessory of a white straw hat.  Mom was so excited about this.  She brought our outfits home and showed us, with great enthusiasm, what we would be wearing when the Easter bunny came. When we tried them on we must have looked like matching midgets who worked in a barbershop in the 1920s.  All that was missing was a cane.  Had I been articulate and worldly enough to say, “Hey Mom, we’re not wearing this because we look like something out of Willy Wonka,” believe me, I would have.  But at the age of five or six, all I could do was frown and fold my arms across my chest in disapproval.  One glance in the mirror at us in our identical outfits and I felt a surge of rebellion rise up like bile in my being. 

I didn’t have to act on my rebellion because Jess did that for me.  I sat back like wimp while, like a pro, she challenged our mother, taking a sharp pin to the the balloon of her enthusiasm.  (I found, and still find, her defiance remarkable for such a young whipper-snapper.)  She told my mother she most certainly would not be wearing that outfit and, if I recall correctly, daringly vetoed a few other unrelated things while she was at it.  She was relentlessly making herself a target of my mother’s building rage and I was stricken at the thought of what would become of her.  Stewing in a strange brew of jealously and awe for my sister, I watched her act out what I only wished I had the courage to do.  I don’t know if I’d ever loved her more than I did in that moment.  If she wasn’t going to wear that outfit, neither would I.  I was sure she would see to this for the both of us.  

When she was finished with her tantrum, we both awaited my mother’s wrath.    But to our surprise, my mother let the whole thing blow over.  Without a word, she took our outfits and put them in her closet, off limits.  I crossed my fingers.  With any luck, she’d forget about them and we wouldn’t have to wear them.  

But Jess was cunning.  Even back in 1986.  

To this day I wonder if her plan was premeditated–if after bedtime, down at her headquarters of the bottom bunk she thought up ways to get my mother’s goose–or if it was a misdemeanor carried out in a moment of passionate fury and spite.  

I don’t remember what I was doing the day of the hat ordeal.  I just remember sensing a clamor from the other end of the house–the unmistakeable shift in energy of when my mother was happily doing something to when she was abruptly interrupted by something unanticipated.  In a matter of moments, the frequency in our house went from smooth, easy listening to ear-cringing static.  When I ran out into the living room to see what the matter was, Mom was speechless, frozen in her tracks, glaring at Jess who was sitting on the brick hearth of our fireplace. 

At first I didn’t get it.  Jess was beaming, ear to ear, despite the invisible daggers coming from my mother’s eyes.  Then I saw.  Jess was sitting on her Easter hat. 

The hat was damaged and so were my mother’s feelings.  I don’t think my sister could have induced that kind of reaction from our mother had she gone up to her and bitch-slapped her.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember the end of this story or what happened when Easter Sunday actually rolled around.  If my sister had to wear her crumpled hat to church or not.  I’m sure there’s a picture that tells the rest of this story’s details. 

Because I’m so far away–hanging here on the edge of the earth (aka New Zealand)–and because it’s been nearly a year, the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing my family, I think about all the holidays we shared.  Despite the unfamiliarity of a new place, the occasion to travel down memory lane still presents itself, unlikely as it may seem.  Most people probably would think that vast geographical distances would cause memories to lessen, but I can assure you the opposite is true.  They become magnified and exaggerated.  Every time you turn around you’re peering through a gigantic magnifying glass.

I like looking through this magnifying glass.  It lends an interesting perspective.  Watching myself and my family from this great distance is curious–we all seem so small and vulnerable.  Even when we are dressed up like midget barbers.  Anne Lamott, one of my all-time favorite writers talks about how her mother is not at all who she would have picked for herself at the “Neiman-Marcus Mommy Salon.”  I feel lucky because I think I probably would have picked exactly my mother, if this fantastical “Mommy Salon” did exist.  As far as mothers go, I probably won the lottery.  But I wouldn’t have said that when I was twelve or twenty or even when I was thirty.  It took me every last inch of thirty-three to form that opinion.  (I hope I can remember that if ever I should have female descendants of my own someday who sit on their Easter hats to spite me.) 

This Easter weekend my sister Jess was at my Mom’s.  When I skyped them, I got to see through the magnifying glass in real-time.  Jess was helping my mother in the yard–doing some odd thing that had to do with a hammer and dirt.  I cracked a joke over how far we’ve all come from the hat ordeal.  I greatly admire those two.  There is a generosity that pours forth in my sister when it has anything to do with my mother, a loyalty I’ve rarely witnessed anywhere else on Earth.  Nowadays if my mother presented Jess with a white straw hat to wear to mass, she’d probably don it without blinking twice.  That’s the extent of her allegiance.

If family were all one big experiment, I would conclude in this particular portion of the experiment that probably takes about a good thirty years to get to that place of reciprocal allegiance.  There’s a precise recipe that must be followed and one of the steps is most definitely making your daughters dress up like midget barbers on Easter.  At the same time, a daughter has to bring her mother back down to this planet, over and over, coming up with new creative ways to accomplish this each time. 

One occasion comes to mind when I was particularly nasty to my mother.  My mother was visiting me in Italy and the two of us had just been to lunch.  I was driving and not really able to pay attention to what she was up to in the passenger’s seat.  All I knew was one minute she was normal-looking and by the next time we pulled up to a stop light I looked over at her and she had bright orange lips.  I gasped.  “Mom!  Give me that lipstick,” I demanded.   In good faith, she gladly handed me her shiny gold tube of Estee Lauder, probably thinking I was going to borrow some to paint my own lips. But I promptly put the lipstick in my car’s ash tray and snapped the lid shut.  Without employing the filter that guards my words as they exit my mouth I said, “I’ll give that back to you next time Halloween rolls around.”  

Shocked, my mother nearly choked. To be honest, I have no idea what possessed me to say that.  I would never have spoken like that to anyone, ever.  Except my mother.  After a moment, she was able to recover her pride and I heard her chuckling a little.  She flipped the visor down to look at herself in the mirror and asked me if I thought it was really too bright.  I looked at her.  In a matter of minutes she’d gone from my mother who I’d just had lunch with to a lady who possibly still had a few flecks of food in her teeth (like me) to a lady wearing too bright a shade of coral lipstick.  Now she was a lady who’s confidence had been reduced to a pulp by another lady twenty-something years younger.  I started to laugh but it wasn’t funny because she looked genuinely hurt.  I apologized immediately.  Still, I wasn’t going to give her the lipstick back.    

The thing was, though, now that I think about it, my mother liked that color lipstick.  It was me, I was the one who didn’t like it.  I was the one who felt insecure looking at my mother wearing that shade of lipstick.  And because of my own stupid little insecurities I told my mother she couldn’t wear it.  What she probably should have done was taken my adult face between her thumb and middle finger and pressed my cheeks together the way she did when I was a toddler and she wanted me to look at her.  She should have wrestled me down and applied that lipstick to me and made me wear it for the rest of the day.  Just because she’s my mother. 

But she didn’t. 

Because she’s my mother. 

I find that fascinating.  How somewhere along the way, roles swap.  Maybe that’s why, as daughters grow up, there’s so much resentment sloshing back and forth.  It’s as if, on some deeper level, we look at each other and sense that eventually we will switch places.   I’ve watched this happen through my magnifying glass, at this great distance, with Jess and my mother.  Suddenly my mother is the one who needs tending to while my sisters and I are the ‘authorities.’  Certainly this is not because Mom’s incapable. But rather because…well, I don’t know why.  It’s unfathomable how this could have happened but at the same time, it was clearly inevitable. 

Mom did not come to this swap very voluntarily.  None of us did, in fact.  My mother raised hell right along side us before relinquishing to the reality that we are now adults in charge of our own decisions and lives.  It has only been in the last few years that she has slowly accepted this.  It was as if we were all growing along together so that we could come apart, mold into our individual selves then come back together to be separate and more solid together than ever.  Now that we’re all here, finally, it’s kinda fun.  We agree on most things but lipstick colors continue to be a point of contention.  Honestly, though, I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone more. 

I’m even tempted to dress myself up like a barber from the 1920s wearing a smooshed straw hat and show up at my Mom’s with an Easter basket full of those nasty peeps.

Happy belated Easter, y’all!