Crucial Minutia
it's the little things...
Courtney E. Martin
Composing a Life: Momma, Do What You Feel
4 Comments | posted May 08th, 2007 at 09:55 am by Courtney E. Martin

I was recently being interviewed for a documentary about art and motherhood — alongside my own artist mother, pictured here in the form of a snow angel — when we both had a fascinating epiphany. For years she would bring up various meals that she used to make when I was growing up–all kinds of cliche middle America dishes like meatloaf–and I would simply shrug. I had absolutely no recognition of any of these meals. I hardly remember my mom in the kitchen at all, to be honest.

Everytime we had this exchange–her remembering a meal she used to slave over, me admitting I had no recollection of it–she seemed geniunely hurt. My mom doesn’t love cooking like some people. She enjoys it at times, especially when she can really focus on it and immerse herself in the creative aspects, but when it came to throwing a meal together for an always hungry, sometimes picky, and often ungrateful family, she saw it as a challenging responsibility, not an artistic opportunity.

This came up during the interview and the interviewer immediately asked, “Well what do you remember?”

A litany of exciting memories came flooding out of my mouth:
(1) my mom and her book group behind the living room door, the cadence of their laughter like a mysterious call from afar–something about femaleness and community, (2) the pumpkins she spraypainted flourescent colors and afixed jewels to on Halloween, (3) lying at her feet while she talked on the phone with committee members of her film festival, everything sounding very important and complex, (4) jumping on the trampoline with her, (5) sitting in her lap, (6) watching her listen to family members’ sad stories at Thanksgiving gatherings….

And suddenly we both realized that what I remember my mom doing were all things she LOVED doing. I don’t remember her labored efforts over a balanced meal, or her committment to the cleanliness of the bathroom. I remember her alight, excited, in her element. I don’t remember the moments when she was trying to be a “good mom.” I remember the moments when she was being an incredibly human being.

It feels like a radical and potentially liberating idea at a time when most mothers are made to feel inadequate at every turn. You are the best mom when you are the most alive person. Your children will–above all else–remember your joy.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 8th, 2007 at 9:55 am and is filed under Relationships, Gender, Career/Life. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

There are currently 4 responses

  1. Kate Torgovnick

    That’s an amazing point Courtney. I definitely remember my mom cooking meals, but then again, I remember my dad doing the same thing (though 9 times out of 10 on his night to cook, it would be the same thing—ratatouille).

    May 9th, 2007 | 7:15 am
  2. So beautiful, my dear. And I love this photo of you two. Weren’t you cold??

    May 9th, 2007 | 11:51 am
  3. Courtney:
    Loved the photo and the essay. I just finished watching to interview and was struck by how loving you are with your mom….and she to you. ıut, yes! as much as possible, we need to be doing things that fill us with joy, with purpose. That is what our children remember.
    Thanks, Pam

    May 10th, 2007 | 5:08 pm
  4. Hey, well this is a beautiful post, and one of those points I wish people would write down to remember for when they have children, because I believe it represents a universal truth:
    You are the best [parent] when you are the most alive person. You could replace “parent” with “person” and it would still be true.

    Parents who work insanely long hours to “provide for their families” must spend time with their families, or all their work is for naught — the provision of love is in the end more important than the provision of money. Obviously people in poverty don’t have as much choice in this. This is why poverty is the worst thing in the world.

    May 11th, 2007 | 10:40 am

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