Tuesday, May 20, 2008

To Hell and Back For A Poodle

We have our dog and now I am mother to three creatures: child, kitty and a 12 1/2 pound mixed breed stray from Georgia with fleas and a gastrointestinal parasite. Our puppy's name is Lambchop and she came to New England via the freedom train, i.e., a farkakta van ride that lasted close to 30 hours.

Lambchop was supposed to be a fully vetted 2-year old Cockapoo who is sweeter than life. Well, she's the most important one out of three. She is most definitely one of the sweetest dogs I have ever met. But she's got fleas and parasites and is 5 years old according to our vet.

Lambchop, let's call her Chop for short, is sadly confined to a crate in my dining room until she is flea-free. The last flea and its offspring should be kicking the bucket on Friday morning. We were going to have an uncrating celebration until we learned of the parasite which according to veterinary assistant "Margaret" is contagious to humans via poop and saliva. I almost shat a parasite right then and there.

I've got a 6 year old I said. The dog has kissed me on the face I said. She licks her self and then will want to sit on the sofa I said. When will this parasite be gone?

Two weeks.

I'm thinking of course I was nuts to adopt a rescue dog sight unseen except that she is the perfect dog. She is house-trained and crate-trained and loves people and could care less about the cat. What's two weeks in a crate in the dining room?

Betsy is a mess. She is so happy to have a dog and wants to hug her and hold her and put her in a baby carriage and tie ribbons in her fur, but she can't and mom is vacuuming like a lunatic and washing her hands like an obsessive compulsive and the dog is skin and bones and there is all this talk about bugs and pills. Bets just lay on the floor this evening and sobbed.

Of course she doesn't quite know why she is so upset. "I never get to see you," is what she said to me mostly because it gets the biggest reaction out of guilt-ridden me who is juggling work and dog and freelance writing and laundry and my little bottle of apple cider vinegar and water which I spray all over the furniture because apparently fleas don't like apple cider vinegar. Who knew?

And kindergarten is ending and that has Bets in a state. All we wanted was a dog to ride with us in the car for school drop-offs and pick-ups and to hug and to hold and instead we have - for the time being - pitiful Pearl.

I'm sure she will be perfect. I'm sure she and Betsy will love each other like nothing else. Soon. Soon. Until then we have 9 days of pills, two more days of flea quarantine, and two weeks of poop-panic to go. Oh and did I mention Lambchop only eats ground beef and rice, sauteed in Canola oil and sprinkled with kosher salt?

Thank goodness for those sweet brown eyes.

Oops, gotta run. I'm pretty sure I feel a parasite in my arse.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Who's Your Mama?

You’d think Mother’s Day among lesbian moms would be an awesome, Doublemint occasion – double your pleasure, double your fun. After all, Mother’s Day is not even a Judeo-Christian/Hallmark creation. It actually was birthed in the US some 150 years ago by Appalachian mom Ann Jarvis, who wanted to raise awareness of the poor health conditions in her community. She called it “Mother’s Work Day.” So for those vernal equinox lesbians more inclined to celebrate the cycles of the moon than the Old or New Testament, Mother’s Day is perfect. It’s pro-mom, pro-woman, pro-justice.

Then why the angst? Why does this lesbian mom secretly dread Mother’s Day? Why do I sadden rather than rejoice when approaching this women fest (an event even bigger and more far-reaching than the Michigan’s Women’s Festival?)

Because in addition to amplifying the joy, Mother’s Day in two-mom households also can shed light on just how complicated it is to share the role of “mother.”

Never mind who gets to be called “mom”, who gets to sleep in?

Who takes care of dinner and makes a cake?

Who gets the card made from glue and glitter in kindergarten?

Judeo-Christian/Hallmark marketing has co-opted Mother’s Day and turned it into yet another celebration of the hetero-nuclear paradigm. Any and all advertisements for Mother’s Day hoo-ha consist of precisely one woman receiving one bouquet of flowers or one diamond necklace or one tray of coffee and toast in bed from her one husband and two children.

It’s enough to make you feel like you’re faking it. Yes, despite it all (birthing, nursing, carpooling, making lunches, tushy wiping, comforting, band-aiding and singing to sleep), a lot of times I feel I’m faking it in the parental department, playing at a game I’m not really at liberty to participate in.

Even though after Ms. Jarvis there was Julia Ward Howe, Boston poet and suffragist (her best known work: the lyrics to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”) who believed mothers “bore the loss of human life more harshly than anyone else,” and so called for a day during which mothers rallied for peace.

That’s no diamond ad. That’s no perfectly made up mom in bed while her husband balances coffee on a silver tray.

In the early years, before I had regained enough consciousness to feel like an imposter, when my c-section scar still tingled on rainy days, the post-partum skin on my stomach had not yet figured out what to do with itself, and I was up three times a night nursing our daughter, I wanted Mother’s Day all to myself. I didn’t even want to consider my partner (we since have split) a mother. I could as much imagine treating her to breakfast in bed as I could picture myself replacing the brakes on my car. I wanted to be the one who was taken care of and indulged à la Hallmark. Hadn’t I earned it in that Hallmark way?

If you stick to the Hallmark scenario, there’s only room for one mother, and it’s a fight to the death to determine who that will is. Anything different from that is not real motherhood. Hence my conflict.

In 1905, after Ann Jarvis died, her daughter, Anna, sought to honor her mother’s work and lobbied businessmen and politicians to assist her in the creation of a special day to honor mothers. Said Anna Jarvis, “There are many days for men, but none for mothers.” After years of Anna. determinedly distributing white carnations each makeshift mother’s day to the boys in Washington, Woodrow Wilson signed a bill declaring Mother’s Day a national holiday. This was 1914. It wasn’t long before religion and marketing got involved and turned Mother’s Day into the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to be: a day that causes me to doubt my credibility as a mother.

The Jarvises would roll over in their graves.

Of course, no mother is faking it. The problem, I remind myself, is not being a lesbian mom on Mother’s Day. It’s being a lesbian mom in a culture that crams a narrow and ridiculous image of motherhood down your throat: one mom per household, with hair highlighted and makeup on.

How then to embrace the day, to do justice to the Jarvis’ vision and to our family, to reclaim my role as mother rather than deny it?

Some lesbians divide Mother’s Day: you get from 7 a.m. to noon, I get from noon to 7 p.m. Some divide the years: 2008 for me, 2009 for you. Some offer up Father’s Day as Mom Day #2. In our family we ad-lib. One of us races off with our daughter to make something for the other, while the other makes plans to do the same.

It still would be great to have a day all to myself. But I’ve learned that this has less to do with me being more of a mother than my ex, and everything to do with me being exhausted.

Anna was so pissed at what happened to the Mother’s Day of her dreams that in 1923 she filed a lawsuit to prevent a festival she believed was endorsing greed and profit over the memorialization of motherhood. She even got herself arrested once for disturbing the peace. Just before she died in 1948, she admitted to regretting having started Mother’s Day.

Well, I say it’s time to take back Mother’s Day. Lesbians moms, straight moms, caregiving grandmothers, aunts and sisters, in honor of the Annas, may we all sleep in.