Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ring of fire

After nineteen loops around the sun, my parenting journey has included a lot of firsts.  Especially in these last few weeks, and while a better mother might never admit that she has a favorite child, an honest mother would snort at such bullshit, and top off my Pinot Noir.  For firsts like these they don’t make scrapbook pages. 
My daughter turned twelve.  She’s my youngest, so I have met twelve before. Twelve is heart breakingly tender and sweet and funny. Twelve has a foot in childhood and a foot in adolescence. Twelve is ready for anything.  Twelve thinks mom can’t possibly know or won’t check.  With a questionable ensemble stuffed in her backpack, she attended her first middle school dance last week. 
Seventeen moved into his college bound brother’s basement lair as soon as it was abandoned.  Seventeen is a militant locavore, unless he finds perfectly good bananas in the dumpster behind Mill Valley Market.  Seventeen is occasionally a vegan, or a vegetarian, depending upon whether rennet free parmesan is available. Seventeen cycles all over the Bay Area, not wanting to contribute to the burning of fossil fuels, and guerilla camps all over Mount Tam, not wanting to be associated with the family unit. Seventeen is a talented artist and musician and is currently in  his awkward social-protester-eco-terrorist phase. Seventeen is such an adorable age.  He stayed out all night last week for the first time, eventually texting at 1:43 AM to say where he was sleeping. 
Nineteen is currently my least favorite. Nineteen leapt from the nest and was insulted that I had bought a desk lamp, sheets & towels for his dorm room. We don’t have a shared world view. Nineteen rode his bicycle 960 miles up to Olympia to start college, which made me crazy but proud when he successfully arrived.  When I heard Nineteen’s recorded voice saying his name after the King County Jail collect call prompt, my chest compressed like Scarlet O’Hara’s when Mammy cinches her corset.  I now know what it feels like when your heart stops.  Two weeks ago Nineteen spent his first night in jail.
In just a few weeks I’ve navigated middle school dress code, eleven o’clock curfew and posting bail.  Just in time for Mother’s Day.  I never got around to doing a birthday cake for twelve, so a nice thick layer of guilt to pair with the Pinot Noir. 
Twelve was at band practice, Seventeen on a ridge near Fairfax and Nineteen under a blanket of clouds in Olympia during the annular Solar Eclipse.  I sat on our deck and stared at the eclipsed sun through a double layer of  Twelve’s shoulder x-rays from years ago.  There’s a juicy metaphor in there somewhere, weighting the branch like a ripe plum.  If I weren’t so singed by my maternal ring of fire, I’d easily see it.

Mary Allison Tierney's essay The Gingerdreadman is included in the anthology Mamas Write, available at Amazon, or your local independent bookshop.


  1. Oh this is fabulous. Superb writing. I have uncomplicated 15 and moody anxiety-ridden 17 and ex-terrorist 19 and ex-drug-dealing 22!! Looking forward to the time when they finally jump ship and leave us in peace :)

    1. Thank you Claire! At least they're 'ex' right? my revision of this piece includes 19's recent DIY tattoo. at least they give me blog topics.

  2. I'm awfully glad I know you personally -- because you are a damn fine writer. :)