11/9/08

Baby mine

OK...phew. Ahem.....

I have no idea why I wanted to tackle this post tonight. I am plainly not up to the task. I have PMS (which always makes me extra-emotional) and this is the most hot-button of all hot-button topics for me when it comes to motherhood and emotion. But...it was on my mind, so here I go:

Ever since I was a little child, the movie Dumbo has made me cry. You know (and I've posted about this before, during "the wait"), the scene where Dumbo's mom is sent to jail for doing something wrong at the circus (I can't remember what because I haven't been able to watch the movie since I was like ten, it has such a strong effect on me). I think she probably didn't want to be in the circus to begin with, right? Anyway...best not to remember (shudder, sob!)

So...she's in prison, and Dumbo finds her, and he's very upset (as would you be!) and she puts her trunk through the bars and cradles him, and sings him this lullaby....to comfort him...while she's stuck in jail, being abused if I remember correctly. (Did you guys see the same movie? Or am I imagining all of this. But then, Disney flicks were a lot more harsh and a lot less sterile back then. I don't suppose any of us born in the '60s or 70's will ever forget what happened to Bambi's mom. Some of us have been permanently scarred).

OK. See......here's the problem. I am now a dripping, shuddering puddle of tears. My nose is stopped up and I can hardly breath. Tears are streaming down my face. I can't even describe the scene without bawling. I can't even look at the above picture without falling apart (even though it's not the exact scene I'm talking about...that one would destroy me. It would probably take me days to recover completely).

So...back to my story.
Here's the thing. Somewhere in the piles of shower gifts we received after QQ came home, she-who-loves-wrappings found a card.
It's one of those cards that plays music when you open it.
And the music is....you guessed it! Dumbo's mom's lullaby: Baby Mine.

Oh, sheesh. Even typing "Baby Mine" makes me cry. For heaven's sake.

And the thing is: she loved it. She loved it so much that she has not destroyed it...has not folded, punched or spindled it, has not drooled-on, chewed or ripped it. She has saved it.
From time to time, she moves it from one part of the house to another. I can hear it when she finds it again, opens it, and the distant, tinny notes strike dread in my sensitive heart.

This is, I have to say, officially my kiddo's favorite lullaby. Though, that could just be because it's sung by someone other than her mother, someone with a lovely, honeyed, Hollywood-ready voice. It in no way resembles the tuneless, off-key caterwalling that her mom calls "singing".
But I don't think it's just that. She truly loves the song.
And, it has to be admitted, it's a beautiful lullaby...a classic. One would expect nothing less from the peerless vintage Disney.

One day, I thought - suck it up, mom. She obviously loves it. Sing the poor kid some Baby Mine and let her drift into naptime content.

...I tried. Really, I did. I braced myself. I girded my loins (if you will) (not literally). I stiffened my upper lip, though I am far from British. And I started, in a high, quavery, very out-of-tune mezzo-soprano:
"Baaaa-byyyyyy miiiiine...don't you cry.....Baaaaaabyyyyyyy miiiiiiiine, dry your eyes....lay your head close to my heart, never to part, baby of mine........"

OK, truthfully, I never even got that far. I maybe got to the second "baby mine" before my voice cracked and I had to run away and pretend to make a grilled cheese sandwich so that QQ (who is very sensitive to such things) would not see mommy crying.

Because, here's the thing: when I was little, the song related to my own mother. My mother, who was diagnosed with a rampant case of cancer when I was barely eight years old. My mother who, even before the cancer, I had always feared losing.

I was an only child, and my mother and I were close. Very close. Although we are in many ways very different as adult women, we were always two peas in a pod...perfectly compatible. We were inseparable from the get-go. And for some reason, even from an age when most children have yet to develop a fear of death, I always feared that I would somehow lose her, that we would in some way be separated. Didn't matter how or why - the very thought used to bring me to tears. And I wasn't a child who cried much...or at all.

My mother, on the other hand, was always a crier. A stray dog, a sad story, pretty much any movie you can think of (don't even let her near Old Yeller) had her tearing up. I couldn't understand it. I'm pretty sure I used to roll my eyes. For me, Dumbo was basically it...my one trigger. The only thing that could bring me to tears. I guess you can imagine what my greatest fear in life was.

So...it happened. Sweet justice. About six months into the adoption process, loooooong before we ever hoped to see our daughter's first pictures, M. and I became sentimental. We would get teary-eyed at sappy commercials, at news stories about children, at old dogs in the pound, at gophers being run over in the street. I actually had to walk out of the new version of King Kong before the Empire State building scene, because I was crying so hard I couldn't breath. Somewhere in there, during the process, our sentimental genes kicked in. We underwent the first stages of our transformation into parenthood.

Now? It's hopeless. And I fully expect to experience that moment (hopefully still a few years down the line) when QQ rolls her eyes at my unbridalled sentimentality. And it will serve me right.

One night, in the weeks after QQ's surgery, when I got up in the night to comfort her crying and take her into the other bedroom to sooth her to sleep, I lay down next to her, and as her tiny, warm body relaxed, as her breathing slowed and she drifted into comfortable unconsciousness, I heard that Dumbo lullaby in my head, and I wept silent tears for my daughter, and how deeply I loved her.

A few days ago, the Dumbo lullaby showed up on a friend's blog. And this afternoon, as QQ was wandering the perimeters of her realm, I heard her open the card and play the lullaby in another room. While out on our run tonight, I called my mother for our monthly check-in, and told her the story about the Dumbo lullaby, and how it has come back to haunt me.

"That's amazing!" she said. "Because I have never been able to watch that movie either. It does the same thing to me."

She described how, in her childhood, she had related it not to her closeness to her mother, but to the fact that her mother had sent her away to boarding school after her sister was born when she was just six years old. She had related it to her loneliness, her lack of a mother to comfort her. A very different story from mine.

And I realized...my own mother's sadness at that story, that song, must have transferred to me somewhere along the line. I must have felt her sadness, and interpreted it in my own way - through my own fear - that of losing my mother whom I loved above all else in life.

I wonder if, somehow, hard as I try to conceal my emotion from her, my reaction to that song will transfer itself to my daughter. I wonder if she will interpret it in her own way. I hope that, should that be the case, she will not relate it to the lack of a mother, but rather to the love of a mother.

But who knows. QQ has, after all, already lost a mother once. She has lost a mother that neither she nor I may ever come to know. Maybe those early Disney flicks had it right...life is tough all over. We lose people. We live our lives colored by that loss, or by the fear of that loss, or by the love/hate relationship many of us have with our parents.

All I know at this very moment is that the love I had and have for my mother has fully transferred and manifested itself with the love I am cultivating with my daughter - the daughter who did not grow in my body, but who is currently growing in my heart. Motherhood takes any number of different forms. It is amazing, joyful, tragic, difficult, and complex by turns. And for the moment, all I want to say is....
"Baby mine, don't you cry........."

18 comments:

Chrissie Larkin said...

you are no longer allowed to blog when you have pms...i am covered in tears...poor little h is covered in my tears as she is nursing while i am reading...i am a mooshy pile of emotions right now myself...dumbo and eore...those 2 rip me up...

Jan said...

Oh Maia, My heart goes out to you. Your post has me in tears! I so understand how you feel. My heart broke just watching Dumbo; and, I have never seen Bambi - I absolutely cannot even bring myself to watch it because of want happens to Bambi's Mom. Who writes these things for children?? I always had the fear of losing my Mom to lung cancer. She was a smoker. When my worst fear came true, I was the one who performed her CT scan that diagnosed her cancer. I was devestated. My world destroyed forever - until this beautiful baby came into our lives and brought back happiness and life. Sending hugs to you, M, and your beautiful little QQ. I am so happy that she is doing well after her surgery!! You and QQ now have each other. Mother and Daughter, Father and Daughter. She is such a beautiful little girl, and you make a beautiful family!! And, life really is beautiful! With Love, Jan

Yoli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yoli said...

The eternal fear. The loss of those which we love. That was a heartfelt post and I can tell it was very hard for you to write.

I think Dumbo and Bambi was Disney at its finest. You learn that life is not always easy and not always fair.

Now please, do as Chrissie says, stop blogging while on PMS. It will be alright Maia, she will not loose you, you will always be by her side no matter what.

A Beautiful Mess said...

Beautifully written....and now I am also crying!

Chris and I were just talking about how a parent almost always dies in a disney movie, and not just the "older" disney movies either! We were watching Nemo and the in the first scene the mom gets gobbled up by a huge fish! Horrible!!

No more PMS blogging for you:) You need to go eat a cupcake, and snuggle up on the with a nice cup of tea.

Stefanie said...

How eloquently put! I can raise a hand as a mama who can NOT watch Dumbo, at all, because of that one trunk-through-the-prison-bars scene. I think it gets me so because a mother's love is so selfless, wanting so much for your child and nothing in return for herself.
Anyway, I loved hearing how you have joined the sentimental sucker club. Glad to have ya! :)

Kay Bratt said...

Loved your story-- very inspiring to me, one who always has a memory and tears for all sad things...

Kay

fourlittlehawks said...

Oh gracious, when I was little that scene sent me into hysterics -and now that I'm a Mommy it's much, much worse! I had to lol when you described trying to sing that song to QQ and having to break off - I've done the same thing! Embrace your new emotional fragility - I hear it's good for your skin.
Btw - I think Dumbo's Mom is in jail because she goes on an Angry Mama sized rampage when everyone is laughing at and picking on Dumbo at the circus???
Love,
Jen

Mamacita said...

OK. First, I AM your mother. I have always been emotional. I weep for everyone, everything, anything the slightest bit sad or touching affects me deeply.

Second, I love that scene from Dumbo too. I even cry when I read it...without having to watch it, which would send me in to hiccupping hysterics. I lost my biological mother when I was almost one. I just wonder after your post, if that is why it (and many other things) makes me so sentimental.

Third, don't immediately count on the rolling eyes. Sugarlips has been with me for five years now. She has seen me weep "for no reason" according to my rock of a husband more enough to be used to it. One Adoption Day, we watched her video together. I'm sure I had seen it 20 times at that point. I looked over, and she had tears in her eyes too. She got it. She totally understood the unprecidented beauty and emotion of that moment. I grabbed her and we both cried together. I sobbed "I love you so much...that was the happiest day of my life" into her hair. She could only nod. She was 3 1/2.

She will be the emotional, weepy, empathetic woman too....just like me. I don't think that my tears will be met with eye rolls when she's older....just a sympathetic watery glance from the most amazing almond shaped eyes ever.

Now I'm crying too.

Lost and Found said...

Now I am crying too. No more PMS blogging for you. Seriously that song makes me weep too for different reasons and I used to love the movie Beaches and always had to have the tissues ready. I have a hard time with the prison scene. It's probably been 30 years since I watched it. Grab your girl and keep singing.

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

That was so incredibly sweet... just in your words I can tell how just how deeply you love Miss Flynn... hugs to ya...

Maia said...

Bonnie Raitt sings a really beautiful version of Baby of Mine on a compilation disc called Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Vintage Disney Films. (It even has Tom Waits on it!).

You know, having children makes a lot of people tender in general - - but having a daughter who has actually gone through your worst fear - losing her mother - makes that tender spot even more sensitive, eh? I personally can't sing/listen to any song with lyrics about family (even totally dorky things like the Signing Times Family Song) without choking up since FF came home.

Our daughters have lived through things that are hard to imagine - lost things that so basic and important to their souls, lived through what we imagine to be our scariest fears--- and yet, they survive and thrive. That's what amazes me. The strength our babies have. Their ability to heal and bounce back. And I think maybe it's a gift for you to have a little girl in your life who has faced her (your) worst fear and gone on to be so positive and strong.

Cavatica said...

You know, I never saw Dumbo or Bambi. Now I'm wondering if my mother was protecting me - or her?

Snowflowers Mum said...

Maia...

You had me at Dumbo!

gulp.

H

Julie said...

A beautiful post Maia...

Vivian M said...

Like mother, like daughter? I think you need some chocolate, a hug, and to stay away from that song while you are PMSing!
Seriously, you made us all cry!

The Sharp Family said...

Please just unplug your TV and DVD player. That will be the best thing for all of us :) You are truly a gifted and spirited mother. I enjoy reading your blogs and don't often comment but I couldn't pass this one up...

Virginia and Doug said...

Ok...How did I miss this post until just now. Yeah, I remember watching Dumbo...once..when I was maybe 6 or 7...have avoided watching it since. It made me angry and upset and so sad. I still get that way over mistreated animals and I decided long ago that I was never taking any child of mine to the Circus. I'm glad I'm not the only sap who gets teary-eyed over Dumbo, or Bambie...or The Fox and the Hound, or worries myself sick over those stinking Dalmation Puppies when I know good and well they're fine in the end.
This was a beautiful post. It's so obvious how much you love that little one..and how could anyone not?