I’m 50!

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I recall with a pang in my breath the times my mother mentioned Christmas was not the same without her mother. I barely flinched, I may have flashed an eye to meet hers, but rarely did I extend compassion to my mom when she spoke of such things. More than likely I returned to my own desperate thoughts of yet another devoid holiday season.

I recently realized I was on that same self-inflicted, torturous path, even though I’m a long ways from home. My mom has been gone for almost three years and so far this “joyful” season was kicking my ass. I stood last week in the center of San Miguel as the decorations went up. Mom would have liked that, I said under my breath, as I turned and walked flatly away. It’s just weird without her.

I still reach for the phone most Sundays to call her; it’s become my missing limb with it’s phantom feelings; she’s not there. My brothers are not speaking to me, most of my family is dead or very distant, and I forgot to have a daughter who will hold my hand as I lay dying. The world has gone crazy-violent, the Republicans are hell-bent on destroying any shred of decency remaining in my country, and chemicals, pollutants and plastics are choking the earth to death. Whoa is me, this is all made a just tad worse by the fact that I am alone once again, ooooooh whoa is me.

I tumbled into a dark rabbit hole for a number of days, sad and weepy, deep in the clutches of grief. It has turned cold in Central Mexico, so I crawled under a mountain of blankets and stayed there; highly unusual for me. I’ve orchestrated this highly solitary life and it is no longer working for me. And oooohhhhh my gawd, my birthday, the big FIVE-O is approaching, aaah boy, hand me another hanky.

Sunday morning I awoke with tears streaming down my cheeks, but everything felt different. I could see colorful, brilliant, twirling lights in the corners of my eyes; something I used to see quite often as a kid, but not so much as an adult. I used to called these lights “fairies”, although I really have no clue. They do however, make me feel better; they generate heat within. I stood up and noticed things looked brighter, so I karate chopped my way out of my bedroom, “I live in Saint Michael’s town and I have a bazillion things to be grateful for, just LOOK at how well I can karate chop my way around the house!!” I got dressed and ran down the hill to dance class; I felt a pep in my step and was eager to move. My eyes were full from the idea of tears, as I glanced at some new and familiar faces in Sunday’s ecstatic dance class. The song, “Hallelujah” came on. It poured over me like a waterfall.

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Yes, I’m going to be fifty years old and how fucking amazing is it that I am still alive?!? How tremendous is it that I am dancing like a champ in the ballet room of Bellas Artes, in the middle of Mexico!?!?!? And hallelujah to be free of a relationship that has been wearing me down ever since it started?!?! I love the cows of Rancho Santo Niño! I love my strong legs! I love my jibbly belly! I love my dog! I love Mexico! I love the United States! I love Donald Trump! I love my artwork! I love my energy!!

Uhhhh ok I would love for Donald Trump to shut his racist cake hole and go away forever. This is where delusion and optimism come in handy.

On and on I pranced, HALLELUJAH my forties are over! I hid out for so many of them; I tried so hard to be invisible, but nothing worked. I hated myself and wished I were dead. The gravity of these sentiments is not lost on me, ever; it wakes me in the wee hours of the night, but throughout the years, I honestly thought I was quite deficient. I was always buzzing in a quiet desperation to find a cure outside myself, but in the meantime I distracted myself with a number of mind-numbing pacifiers because — well, because get me out of this pain now.

I struggled over a lot of things my forties. I felt awful about a marriage to a man I should not have married. We liked each other a lot, we still do, but we never once worked as a couple, and so I strayed, before we divorced. I was wracked with guilt, angry too. I was a failure. I crawled back to Illinois with my tail between my legs and worked for awful people because they helped punish me when I fell short. I didn’t care about my future, I didn’t want to travel, I didn’t want to learn anything new, I had zero interest in any long term goals. I deserved no happiness.

I hope it’s not too late.

Then my mom got sick and needed me. She was going down for the count and reached for my hand like never before. She apologized to me. She told me she was very sorry she had not been nicer to me and had deep regrets. “I wish I had been nicer to you Meag.”

With those words, my mom healed a thousand and one wounds; I can picture myself falling slow-motion backwards through a time warp as these words penetrate. My focus went from staring deep inside my jagged soul, to turning around and looking at the horizon out in front of me, “There it is, my death, over there towards the horizon. I better live the best damn life I can possibly live before I reach my horizon.”

It’s true, I fell into a rabbit hole, what with the coming holidays, my approaching half-century birthday, the holidays without my mom nor family, and dang I forgot to have a kid, and well, why not have another holiday as a singleton…. oy vey, the grief is huge.

Although, none of this matters if I slather on the right combination of denial, delusion and optimism, because I have the greatest gift inside my heart; my mom’s blessings.

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She set me free and I will be forever grateful, even if she did wait until her deathbed — but oh my she finished strong. It’s time to get busy living or get busy dying, as they say in prison. Don’t forget the denial — fake it til I make it is in full swing right now.

San Miguel de Allende is a lot of things, and it is also a city full of women who have come to re-invent themselves after the divorce, the retirement, the breakup, the failure, the success; this path has been blazed many times, but never duplicated. I am in the right place, at the right time, at the right age.

So let’s dance…

Thank you Fairies!

Thanks Ma!
Love you like a diamond! xx

Happy Birthday to my brothers Sean & Kevin too, I love you both wherever you are! xx

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Juls’ Quilts, Part 1

My mom, Juls, was a wonderful quilt maker and won many awards and accolades over the years for her art — but never really told anyone outside of the family.  Even at her wake, neighbors that she lived next door to for decades had no idea that mom was such an accomplished quilter.  Cousins, aunts, even one of her brothers had no idea that this is what my mom did up in her little condo; in a work space roughly about 6 by 6 feet.  To see all her quilts up on display was really rather moving for me, I had never seen them in this light and it blew everyone away.

Juls was able to blow the room away at her wake because as an ode to my mother, I filled the “wake room” with her quilts and it looked very much like her own personal art gallery.  It was really beautiful if I may say so myself.  Quilts on walls, on chairs, on couches, on podiums, she was everywhere.  Relatives asked all day and night, “What are you going to do with your mother’s quilts?”  My brothers were ready to bring in an auctioneer that night!  I don’t know exactly what I am going to do with her quilts, but I certainly am exploring some options.

A quilt appraisialist said that they should go to either the Illinois State Museum in Springfield or to the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska.  This appraisalist never met my mother, not many did, but she certainly was familiar with my mom’s work.  Juls was the recluse quilter that quietly won all the awards at the McHenry County Fair each year and came in to pick up her ribbons on the Monday after the fair — and into the fabric cabinet the ribbons would go.

The reasons why mom hid for so many years are starting to become clear to me as I sort through her things and empty out her life and it’s not always easy because I get upset with her. I wish she had let me in on some of her thoughts and not let them fester.  So stubborn.  Stone Head.

I always threatened my mom that I would expose her craft when she was gone and she would say, “What will I care then?”  Well, ummm true but that time is here and now the first thing I had to do was photograph the quilts.  This is not as easy as it sounds, as her quilts are huge, well most of them at least, and huge means heavy.  Thankfully I was able to use one of the studios at the Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship (where I am now also teaching and studying, but more on that later).

I sold some of my mom’s quilts at her estate sale but have hung on to a good many.  I learned that my mom had quite a following and when word got out that some of her quilts were up for sale, people came from all over the area and her estate was quickly emptied out.  I am pleased about this.  As well as a little freaked out by her empty house that I can now hear an echo when I talk.  I wonder if I made it all happen too quickly and now have very little of her left.

I am not a pack rat.  Now I am preparing to contact the museums as soon as I have them all properly inventoried.  These are just a few.

My mom was never big on talking. It drove me crazy my entire life.  When I saw her quilts up on the walls of the funeral home, I saw that mom said everything through her quilts.  There are layers and layers of her emotions and thoughts in her quilts and I will do what I can to get people to hear my mom.  

Aw Juls. You finally said something.  xo