On New Beginnings

With Mother’s Day 2023 come and gone, I find myself reflecting on what a complicated time it can be for some. This is for everybody who didn’t have anyone to celebrate yesterday.

Dear Mom and Dad,

It seems only fitting that the idea for this new blog series would occur to me yesterday, on Mother’s Day. My sister and I celebrated the weekend with your mother, Dad – the same grandma who took us in and raised us according to the tearful wishes you expressed to her over the phone, Mom.

But there was still a seat at the table where you should have been, as there is for so many who don’t have mothers, or who don’t have mothers deserving of recognition.

With that said, welcome to my blog.

I was twelve years old when the two of you passed away in 2006, so I have no memory of whether the three of us had even heard of “blogging.” All I know is that Mom saw a story on the news once about MySpace and warned me never to make an account with them, which isn’t even to mention the time you both walked in on users cursing at me in a video game chat room I visited on Grandma and Grandpa’s computer (which they didn’t know I was logged onto at the time).

Well, not only do I have my own computer now, but I also have my own website.

And as you can see, I dedicated much of it to writing about film.

I look back with pride on my journalism major and film theory minor in undergraduate school, partly because I know you each wished for me to go farther with my education than either of you did, and partly because some of my favorite moments with you involve the movies we watched together. Mom, I can remember you weeping during Pearl Harbor as you told me about the grandfather you were closest to – the war veteran who inspired your fascination with history. And Dad, I can remember the family going out to see Revenge of the Sith, only to glance over at you and see tears in your eyes by the light of the silver screen as you watched your childhood come to life one more time.

Still, as highly as I continue to value the cinematic arts, my life is not the same as it was when I last blogged here in 2020, and my writing will reflect that. Between then and now, I studied creative nonfiction at the graduate level, and I learned the science of the memoir and the personal essay. One of the most crucial lessons a student can grasp is the difference between “critical” writing and “creative” writing, and though critical writing may be faster and easier to master, creative writing is the more “artistic” alternative.

And what is our chaotic and painful existence without the structure and significance of art?

The year 2022, in particular, left a taste of that chaos and pain in my mouth bitterer than any I had ever known before, when I was date-raped, mugged, and left for dead in the slushy gutters of downtown Denver last February. You aren’t here anymore, Mom, to protect me – to the extent that the office at my elementary school called you a “helicopter parent.”

It is for me to protect myself now.

And the best way I know how to make a setting for those flashbacks and intrusive thoughts in my mind is the creative nonfiction that leaves behind a world more beautiful than I found it.

Since graduating with my Master of Arts degree in December, I have grappled with what to do next as a blogger: I challenged myself to write daily “flash” essays; I pushed myself to compose weekly posts about none other than blog marketing itself; I even attempted to publish a monograph on Lady Gaga, as though writing about music weren’t tantamount to dancing about architecture.

But what I taught myself through all this trial and error is that I have a story only I can tell about life’s greatest greatest tragedy, and that is death itself.

Because when it came for you, Mom and Dad, it took two people unlike any I’ll ever meet again.

However, in all honesty, if you were alive today, Mom, I don’t know if I would have spent Mother’s Day with you this year. I nurse as much resentment toward you as I do nostalgia for the only mother I’ll ever have, thanks in no small part to the nights I went to bed with an empty stomach and a racing mind, or the bruises that flecked Dad’s body when he took his shirt off at pool parties, or the time you told me you didn’t like me.

Not that Dad was the better parent, slurring at me about how stupid I was with breath that smelled like hand sanitizer when he wasn’t snoring among the half-full vodka bottles in the basement, or – maybe worst of all – declining to defend us from you.

I may be in therapy today because of your parenting, but I hope this open letter can reach even one person who needs to hear the importance of making peace with the truth about who their mother is – knowing that it did would help me make peace with mine, because if someone is reading this, whoever they are, heartache need not take up any more space in their life than a room makes up a house. For if one fails to accept that their mother is part of them, then they could find themselves swallowing opioids by the fistful like you did, Mom, three weeks before my Dad drank himself to death just to kill the demons inside him, too.

No, I might not have been able to save either one of you, and that could be why I drank until I blacked out in 2022 – because I couldn’t justify my own existence unless it was enough for somebody else’s; but is it possible for this post to do what I couldn’t do when I was a child in 2006, and knock the pills out of one person’s hands, or yank the bottle away from the lips of another?

As with the revolution this personal blog is undergoing so I can reconcile it with what happened last year that changed me forever, sometimes we must radicalize our relationships with our mothers, Mom, like you never did with yours – the grandma you didn’t want us to end up with in the event that you couldn’t be there for us anymore. You wouldn’t accept her for the Cluster B personality-disordered abuser that she was, and the way she rejected and scapegoated you not long before you died, casting you out from her flock like the proverbial black sheep, is what killed you in the end. Since you were, during your most impressionable and formative years, dependent upon her care, you believed her capable of love and empathy even though she had the capacity for neither, so you blamed yourself when she acted without concern for your own behavioral health. The family you found in Dad, and the family you created in my sister and me, weren’t enough for you because, in more ways than one, you were your mother’s daughter.

So now I must live without that closure I could have otherwise forged with you, because we’ll never know what would have awaited us had you chosen to live without your mother in your life.

Wherever you are, Mom, I pray this Mother’s Day was a lesson in what you meant to us during what little time we got to share with you, and how we longed for you to realize you could have done better than the woman it was your dying wish to shield us from.

Indeed, having enjoyed the most catharsis I’ve felt from this site in the past three years, I can promise the life our mothers give us – for better or worse – is worth the fight.