Sunday, May 08, 2011

tea and empathy

I was going to say that having lost both my mom and babies-to-be makes me feel like a single person on Valentine’s Day today, except I lost three people, so it’s kind of like being a polyamorous widow on Valentine’s Day. Taking in ads for flowers and brunch specials,* I pitied myself hard. Some people had moms! Some people had babies! How was it even remotely fair to have neither?!

Then I kind of started laughing at the pathetic figure I’d created for myself. Then I cried some more. Then I worked on some adoption paperwork, which, I’ve learned from AK’s psychology program, is called “sublimation” and is considered one of the healthier defense mechanisms, thank you very much.

Nicole and her sister Vanessa decided to host a Motherless Mother’s Day high tea, which felt like a nice respite—“the first Mother’s Day I’ve looked forward to in eight years,” said Cathy, who came too. They took it seriously: I kept getting very specific texts from Nicole like, “Can you bring a box of Twinings Earl Grey tea?” and “Can you bring some Brussels cookies? If they don’t have them, Milanos are an okay back-up.”

“That’s all Vanessa,” Nicole said when I arrived. “If it were up to me, I’d be like, ‘Bring some cookies.’”

Vanessa is very glamorous. After visiting her apartment, I want to display stacks of vintage French books around my house too, except I don’t actually speak French.

For the tea, she’d made her own tiered dishes by stacking plates on overturned glasses. There were charmingly mismatched mugs. There were dainty salmon sandwiches and bread served with butter and radish slices. There were petit fours and berries with clotted cream that Vanessa may have clotted herself.

There were eight women in all, longtime members of the Motherless Club and recent conscripts. We didn’t go around in a circle and talk about our grief or anything. The longest conversation of the day was about the politics of yoga. But we talked about our moms here and there—Jessica mentioned recipes that had been passed down in her family; my sister brought up our mom’s flour-dusted recipe book, in which most of the recipes began, “Take one box of yellow cake mix….” Mostly it was just nice to be in a room full of people who get it, even when the “it” stays offstage.

I had some quiet time with my journal and the Squeakies too. I read a chapter in Children of Open Adoption that cautioned against proceeding with adoption when the grief of infertility is too fresh. I think that would be true if I were handed a baby tomorrow, but it will take weeks just to get my driving record from the DMV. And I think I can mourn my first babies while making sure they’re not my last. Since when did life not unfold in complicated, overlapping layers? I know how to multitask. I hear it’s what moms do.

*Things that would probably send me scrounging for proof of my still-coolness if I were actually a mom. “Why brunch?” I would say to my kids. “You don’t think I’ll still be awake at dinner time, do you? You might as well just get me a book of inspirational quotes from the Mother’s Day table at Barnes & Noble. I want funky jewelry and tickets to edgy plays with swear words in them, dammit!”


Peter Varvel said...

I'm glad Cathy was with you to celebrate.
My heart worried about you this weekend ... it would be wrong not to acknowledge and remember the Squeakies on this specific day.
Nicole and Vanessa are my new Heroes of Cool.

Claire said...

I prefer Bigelow's Earl Grey, but it still sounds like an excellent tea and gathering.

"Since when did life not unfold in complicated, overlapping layers?"

My goodness yes. Again and again.

"I know how to multitask. I hear it’s what moms do."

Darn tootin'!

Cheryl said...

PV: Nicole and Vanessa will be excited to hear about their new titles. :-) Thanks for thinking of all of us.

C: I thought I wasn't any kind of tea snob until I tasted this fancy French Breakfast Tea that Vanessa got at a fancy French shop, and then I wanted to go to France. Sort of.

Stephanie said...

I love this post because it speaks to the healing power of women, and how we rely on and need each other, through the good and the bad. And everything always seems just a little bit better with tea...and a smile or hug from our friends.

thelastnoel said...

Well, I had a lot of catching up to do! I see you've been...going through a lot. Hope you're well.