I’ve been thinking a whole lot about mothers. About my own mother, about me as a mother and about a little squirrel mother. Could be because Mother's Day and my mother's birthday is coming up. Could be because of a treasure that my daughter recently found: rainbow-coloured bobby pins that were my mother’s. They live in a pretty gossamer bag and make me smile when I see them…not just because they are a riot of colours, but because I remember so well how happy I was when I saw that bag come out as a kid. It meant that she and Dad were going out for a night on the town. They did this often.
The way she smelled faintly of Chanel No. 5 and the happy gleam in her eyes as she held on to a couple of the pins in her lips and worked her golden locks around the curlers. She would answer my questions about boys, love, hurt, empathy and dreams with patience and kindness and slip the pins into place. The finished product was always elegant and breathtaking. My mother was a true beauty. She made me feel the same inside and out.
On Sunday, Mother’s Day, my family and I will visit her commemorative tree down by the Beach. The one that says: Brenda Geisler, Requiescat in Pace – Lover of Life and Trees. We will fuss and plant and not say much. My daughter will provide much needed comedic relief (oh how I pray she doesn’t think she HAS to fill this role) and then we’ll all go for brunch together. And all feel the pain of her leaving us so young. She was 59.
God, how I’m missing her lately. I remember strong and happy Mom. She’s been in my dreams almost every night lately, like she has something to tell me. I don’t know what it is but there's something about softness and empathy. Maybe for myself and maybe for others. I am listening.
It’s trite to say she taught me so much…of course she did. About being a mother AND a caring human being.
That’s learning…and THEN there’s instinct.
Yesterday, I learned about instinct from another mother. We have squirrels in the overhang of our front porch. Right beneath the master bedroom. The scritch-scratch and scurrying has been driving us to distraction for the past two and a half months. We *knew* when we heard a squirrel back in March that it was likely she was pregnant and needing a nest for her babes. So we left her alone. We gave her the 8+ weeks to nurse and get her babes ready to move on out and then hired the wildlife removal guy. He set up a “one-way exclusion door” (meaning the squirrels leave to get food and water and can’t get back in). Plan is as follows: mama leaves and the babies follow. Problem is, only one followed her out yesterday. She has been ravaging a hole below the contraption to get back in. Her panic is one I know too well.
When my daughter was two and a half, she got locked in the bathroom by herself. I immediately set to ripping the door off with my bare hands. Literally. I didn’t even consider finding the proper tools. My baby was in there and that was all that mattered. Luckily it was one of those flimsy hollow core doors. The real challenge was to tear the door off without causing her to panic. I remember precious little about those 4 minutes except for a roar in my ears and the sound of the veneer ripping …and the murmuring noises I made to show my babe how cool we both needed to be. She was cool. I just looked it. Inside, I was a raging bull calmed only once she was safe and in my arms.
I saw that quality in the mama squirrel. Nothing is going to come between her and her babes. Claws and teeth are her tools and the power comes from her heart. We won't stand in her way and won't rest until they're all safe together.
Yesterday morning, the mother squirrel was a pest. Today, she is a kindred mama.
My mom would be proud of this post. She’d love the synthesized appreciation that fierce protection of your children is instinctive and having empathy is learned. Then again, she loved most things I did. That's the kind of mama I am intent on being. To my daughter and to the world.