I am the worst for time, distance, direction. A friend says I need only focus and I can develop those skills, but I’ve never been able to see that as the best use of my energies, and so now as I’m writing this I have to pull out a copy of The Essential Hip Mama to check the pub date. Wow! 2004! It’s been 10 years since that collection came out (with my essay “Turning”) and I went on my first book tour and I saw the amazing Ariel Gore, the Hip Mama mama.

Over the years, we’ve stayed in touch in that thready kind of way that I do—I know where you are, you know where I am, it’s important to me that I know you’re okay, and we periodically float through each other’s virtual space as if we had connected only yesterday.

So when the generic e-mail slipped into my inbox saying that Ariel would be in Amherst, Massachusetts, on the tour for her latest book, The End of Eve, I pulled out my overnighter, filled up the tank, stopped at Dunkin Donuts for a large coffee, and headed down 95.

I discovered the zine Hip Mama while visiting a friend on the West Coast, submitted an essay, and that was my first national publication. Over the years, they’ve published a few more, and so I’m attached, grateful, celebrate all things Ariel and the mamas, of which there are many. She has a huge following, and we are some loyal mothers!

The reading was at Food for Thought Books in downtown Amherst, the same place we read at all those years ago—the same place where my mother’s 80+-year-old sister, the last of the three girls, came running in, saying “Annaliese, it’s your Auntie Cathy,” as if I could ever forget her.

Food for Thought is smaller now, but fortunately still with the doors wide open. Ariel continues to be dedicated to the independents, including, this time around, Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane, The Elliot Bay Book Co. in Seattle, Diesel Books in Oakland, Vroman’s in Pasadena, Wooden Shoe Books in Philadelphia, Atomic Books in Baltimore, Bluestockings in New York, Op Cit Books in Santa Fe, and Food for Thought, of course, in Amherst.

A crazy five-hour run down the highway, through some looping roads, and then back. Happy to have done it? You bet.      —Annaliese (3/29/14)

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FROM “TURNING”

I made my daughter cry today. My words ripped harsh and unsympathetic:

“How could you have turned down a job? You have 15 cents! And you need $2,000 for college by the 15th or you can’t go. What do you mean ‘the job wasn’t right’?”

Silence.

“Any job would be right just about now.”

The telephone rattled empty in my ear; the sound of her swallowing tears 200 miles away, our last communication. I heard my words as if through some other-worldly gauze, as if thrown from some other woman’s mouth.

I am afraid. I don’t know how to do this redefined mothering thing. All of my training has been in the up-close, in-your-face type of mothering, not this long distance kind.

If someone were to ask me to tell them what I am skilled in, I would say “mothering” (not parenting, but mothering—which requires a mythical umbilical cord pulsing blood and pain and celebration between two bodies). I would say that. Shout it. Know it.

Damn. I’ve always been able to do all of these things; say the right thing, pass no judgment and trust that everything would be all right: when she forged notes in third grade; when a 5-year-old, golden-haired, California girl taught her and her brother how to have a child’s idea of intercourse in that gentle summer field of goldenrod and broken dandelion lives; when a boy she adored told her that Jesus told him that she wasn’t the right one for him and he was sorry, so very sorry that he had fingered the stiff nipple of her left breast.

I never knew what to do. I never knew what not to do. I just did it. Now I feel suspended, my reasoning levitating an inch above the earth, my logic hyperventilating trying to catch its natural rhythm…

Essential Hip Mama

  

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