Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Since my husband and I hosted his family's reunion last weekend together with his sister and their cousin, I'm exhausted but still thinking about family ties.  I do, of course, plan to write about the family reunion, keeping with the tradition in blogging, if there is such a thing, that no topic is safe from discussion via a blog.  However, until I can gather my wits...or was it just the one wit?  Until I can gather myself back together, this is a reprinted column previously published in Aleesha Stephenson's lovely Timeless Spirit eMagazine, November 2010.  I hope, if you have not already, you will take advantage of the free subscription.

Mom married late in life and had my brother and me eleven months apart when she was 41 and 42 before there were a lot of special medical processes to assist with late in life babies. She was overjoyed to have children. It was her lifelong dream. She had tremendous insecurities about her own looks and attractiveness, so two happy babies with big blue eyes were a miracle to her.

It didn’t matter that I didn’t have hair for a year or so; she taped bows to my head until my first wispy, then thick blonde hair grew in. She marveled that I spoke complete sentences at 9 months then realized the downside of an introvert mother raising an extravert child.

“The reason you talk in your sleep,” she explained, “is that you just didn’t get everything said during the day.” Most of the time, she adjusted as much as she could to having a chatterbox child. She was curious and eager about childhood mental development. One of my earliest memories is sitting in my high chair in the kitchen telling “Banana Stories” with her.

“If I had three bananas,” she held up her fingers and drew bananas in yellow chalk on our chalkboard on the kitchen wall, “and you ate one of them, how many bananas would I have?” I giggled uncontrollably at the thought of the delicious naughtiness of a possibly purloined banana and answered. I never tired of Banana Stories or the stories of her childhood. I became her confidante, her sounding board and sometimes her only friend.

Over time I realized my mother, despite her delight in her children, was almost constantly depressed. She held onto what was painful in her life like clutching a knife at the blade or gripping broken glass. I knew the stories of her pain so well that it was almost like being there. Her first grade teacher made fun of her drawing of a 4-legged bird. Her mother always dressed her sister in blue dresses and she got brown ones. Her college professor held a tuning fork to her head to prove it was a vacuum. She was flashed on a train. She was humiliated by her parents, her sister, her teachers, her first boyfriend, her friends, her friends’ families, her bosses.

Picture Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

Of course, she persisted in life. She had a journalism degree from a respected university. She was a reporter and an editor. She was a WAVE and worked at decoding secret messages. She was a wiz at Blackjack. She started her own business as an antique dealer. She loved baseball.

She told me in a matter-of-fact voice more than once that the more intelligent you are, the more suicide seems like a good option. The smarter you are, the more you realize how hopeless everything is, she explained.

Even as a small child, alarms, healthy alarms went off in my head when she would say this. She had praised me for my intelligence, rewarded me for it. I wanted to be smart. It was fun, fun being me. I wanted her praise. But I did not want to die. My mother had an encyclopedic knowledge of the world and voracious urge to learn more. She explained that the requirement for being a truly good journalist was to know everything. And I watched her every time she posited the correlation between intelligence and suicide, Chatty Cathy made silent at these times.

Picture Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

Must I choose between being stupid and alive v. being intelligent and dead? And of course, was she going to succumb to her idea of the ultimate intelligence? Was she the realization of the Queen of Swords reversed: bitter, sad, so focused on the negative, denying her own empowerment, hopeless, angry, constantly disappointed with herself and the rest of the world? Was she the embodiment of the 8 of Swords, the limitations of her own thinking imprisoning her? Was she also the 5 of Pentacles, always feeling on the outside, rejecting all comfort of religion with her professions of agnosticism, citing her favorite Biblical moment identifying with Doubting Thomas?

You never know the gifts you will give others, especially your children. In spite of her enduring and passionate negativity she had given me a few gifts, one consciously. “Just remember,” she told me, “Nothing, nothing diminishes you.” I don’t know exactly where this ray of hope came from within her. Perhaps she, like any ferociously protective mother, sought to sacrifice herself to her demons but save me.

Picture Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

An in her terrible Sphinx riddle connecting intelligence to suicide, she gave me another gift, unwittingly. She cemented my identity as separate from hers. I could not agree with her. I realized the limitations of logic, especially hers. I could not be diminished by her depression. I could not be dragged down into the hell of her sadness. Sensitive as I was, aware of spirit as I was, I was given such an important gift. I was able to separate myself from those near me.

Being a tarot reader, I hear and sense some amazingly wonderful things but also some horrors beyond the most frightening movies or books. Some tarot readers ask each other, “How do you separate yourself from your sitters or from a reading? How do you keep from falling in a hole with them?” Even if they survived an “identity crisis” in childhood like I did, I recommend exercises to maintain sense of self.

Take time away. Do something linear and tactile like wash the car, walk the dog, pull weeds. Meditate. Be conscious of your own boundaries and revel in them. They distinguish you, in more than one sense of the word. Soon, the paradox we live in, of being all connected, yet all separate in this life will settle in comfortably. We are spirit and matter. Both are important.

You’ll find the gift, the legacy of learning from others’ lives. Nothing diminishes you, either.

Best wishes.

1 comment:

  1. I always say we are something in between our Ancestors and our Gods.