In defiance of statistical norms, I’m back in C.V.S. shopping for tampons and overnight pads. A song of my youth is piped through the florescent illuminated suburban gloom. It’s “More Than This” by Roxy Music, so I abruptly halt efforts to resupply my menstrual arsenal. I just want to feel what that song might still mean as Mother’s Day 2018 approaches. My soul thrills to soaring vocals and churning chords. Upon returning home, I cue up the 10,000 Maniacs cover and the solo Bryan Ferry version. Suddenly, I can ‘t stop playing this song while working on my novel. Is music or love my drug? A mantra to decipher:


As I prepare for the painful absurdity of Mother’s Day (long deceased mother, more recently passed mother in law, loving son once again studying abroad), I think about what music means in my life. Music, particularly rock and roll, has always promised transcendence. It embodies prayers, dreams, orgasms, revelations, and the promise of true love. Rock anthems inspire me to pledge fealty to ideals greater than my individual life. Hearing such music, mind and loins quiver with delight while a heart breaks open. Rock anthems claim my soul and pull me from a cherished past, through the painful present, and into the future. Instead of wallowing in nostalgia, I embrace hope that better times will come.  What would such revolutionary social transformations encompass? What happiness is possible for me in the world as it currently exists, when I spend each day enduring the political status quo, humoring the living, and in close creative conversation with the dead?

As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m thinking about what has been lost and gained during the past twenty years since my mother died out of the blue. Last week, my husband and I attended a family engagement party. It was a wonderful gathering, but one that greatly unsettled me. I’m totally floored by the youngest of the cousins getting married. During the party, frenetic dancing was mostly divided by gender. The engaged couple was lifted upon chairs and held in the air by joyous friends and family. As the evening unfolded, I wondered:  Will my future daughter in law walk around my son seven times? Will he decide to walk around her? How will my son integrate the religious and secular worlds? How will I? I was a suburban bride who walked bare-faced down the aisle of a Reform temple (strategically located between both sets of parents and known for having a highly regarded kosher caterer), veiled only by my college roommate shortly before ascending the bimah. I wanted my community to know that I was not traveling as property from my parent’s house to that of a husband. I have never, and would never, walk around any man seven times – unless he walked around me first.

Throughout the evening, I watched my lovely first cousin by marriage blossom into her new role as “Mother of the Bride.” Hadn’t I just been a guest at her wedding? Where did the time go? The older generation has vanished – except for the “Grandmother of the Bride”, my husband’s well-preserved Aunt. She’s outlived everyone. I’m happy to sit beside her at a tiny cocktail table, marvel at the stunning array of sushi and bountiful desserts, and quietly absorb the passage of years. It’s all unspoken – who’s dead, who’s alive, who’s still married, who isn’t – and yes, I remain one of the unanticipated enduring additions to the complex family constellation. Like the religious young bride, I am a graduate of Barnard. Unlike the bride, I know what it is to be broken and reborn, broken again, and reborn…

I rise from the ashes this Mother’s Day. My son is twenty-six, I am fifty-three, and better days must be coming soon. There must be more than this…

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3 Poems for Challenging Times

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