For as long as I can remember, my mother loves Owls. She is a bookworm, introspective and wise, and my favorite picture of her in my head is in her giant bed, four tall wooden posts rise to the ceiling like trees, with her buried in books, curlers in hair.
Along with the Hummingbird, she would point them out to me from her hammock at night or in a gift shop, a member of the Owl posse, which all Owl discoveries I frankly smiled with a nod or “Wow!” look, not wanting to reveal my Owl boredom, which is just the proper thing to do when one’s mom hunts a daughter down, in Michaels, dangling a Owl ornament from two aisles over, on sale.
Not to mention, with double thumbs up and a text to check out the coupons for extra savings on uh, Owl ornaments, I fake excitement sometimes because I appreciate it being faked for me.
It’s why we all smile at baby Picts being shoved from wallets into our faces, the person waiting for your delightful praise over their he/she child whose head is so big and odd shaped, you look in panic for the first adorable truth you can gather.
“I love Elmo!” is not the best distraction, especially if the one paying the check is an offended mom who was expecting something spectacular about her bald headed beady eyed fetus,
I will admit mom is to Owls as I am with fairies. Not the cutesy butterfly kind but the bad ass ones with attitude and tube socks, drawn on cards and obviously not happy about it.
After getting knicked in the heels in Walmart by old people pushing carts and fat people sitting and driving them, the right fairy reminds me im not alone in this insanity. I see that angry fairy and feel connected, validated, a non comformist if you will. She tells me every year I’m an idiot to have not shopped online. She never bullshits and I respect that.
Mother once had a dream i argued with her in Kroger for purchasing an owl in which she proceeded to cut off it’s head for a centerpiece during the Holidays. I stand behind my dream argument she relayed for it made perfect sense to me, the awake me. I am not Joseph but it seemed she were the owl, always cutting her own head off in sacrifice for family, anything to make four bratty kids happy, her own self the living sacrifice.
If Maury were to film her at Christmas, I doubt he could ever convince her what we have tried.
She brought the joy not her Holiday gifts, traditions, and unreachable expectations.
She was Christmas, just her, and I doubt she’ll ever see it the way I did, awake, dead, or decapitated.
It’s too bad Owls and Fairies can’t see more eye to eye on these things.
I bought her a huge Owl during summer, not on sale.
an Antique shop and bought it for that next Christmas, contemplating the perfect hiding space, delighted I were going to make this the gift under the tree the gift she wouldn’t stop talking about for 10 Christmas years to come, I had it double wrapped and hid it in my trunk. It was the Owl no brother could top. I had won best gift.
Unfortunately, I called her on the way home and told her all about it.
I can’t help it. I’m a sucker for happy gift reactions.
It was more than a hit. She squealed, hugged and did a circle dance move, some sort of Owl ritual perhaps. I looked away. Not even The Who would appreciate those moves.
Get it. The Who – Hoo Hooo.
She paced the house with this enormous fake creature with a “What the hell am I going to do with this?” look on her face, not that she uses the word hell, but I secretly hopes she does sometimes say something crazy, despite herself. I always found it nonsense growing up she didn’t like “sucks,” as if Jesus died on the cross for those who say “sucks,” “blows” and “sharted,” which is a fart and shit combined, which she didn’t even realize.
She decided on the outdoors, a tree stump once hit by lighting, where she placed the freakishly large Owl and announced to me and her doggies, “Perfect. It is the symbol of my protection.”
On this one particular nasty day where she cried a lot, falling into a painful day of grieving life and loss, she looked out the window the next day and sighed.
“No wonder. The Owl fell and so did I.”
She marched her determined little self into the wet woods to put that Owl back on post.
It was between them two, but I smiled at their resolve.
When I started school, I had to do table top special assignments to shoot interesting objects with our new knowledge of studio lighting, so I took her Owl with permission to photograph.
And so, we haven’t spoken since and her Owl was away when her things were taken out and moved, the Owl never mentioned or requested. I had forgotten too, or blocked it out, the two seem eerily the same these days.
Until I found it in my boyfriend’s closet.
I screamed bloody murder, covering my mouth and pointing, just pointing to the linen closet.
“What is THAT? some kind of sick joke?”
My face was white and ghastly but it didn’t make him smarter.
“Uuh, I hid it in there cause I don’t fold towels.”
I demanded it be gone the next day, the thought of it again made me hurt, in places I don’t know how to stop, the hurt that stupid Owl brought from his closet could never be fixed, not even by Christmas, or fairies or all the curse words I could say out loud or math camps I could remove.
That Owl must be dealt with.
Or so I thought, running into the damn thing AGAIN but this time in the basement but with cobwebs in the dark, the village idiot must not watch too many gangster movies.
Who doesn’t know what “Get rid of it means?”
And how I paced, it seemed too creepy to chop it up, too mean to toss, too hurtful to display, so I put a note and left it in the street, facing my neighbor so he hopefully would be pegged as the nut.
Judge me but I did want it to have a nice home.
I have learned a lot about myself, about grief, over the torture of this Owl.
What to do with it, what it all meant, where it all belonged, how to make it not hurt me, the projections, delusions, compromises. The final goodbye.
I feel the eyes, beady scary eyes following me, ready to peck out my heart with that beak and its predator claws.
It wasn’t until Kat, my preteen with a perma scowl surprised me saying in sarcasm, “Whats up with nana? Is she dead or something, what’s the deal?”
She rolled her eyes and bit into pancakes bitterly.
I didn’t answer. I did the rational move instead of course, grabbed scissors out of the drawer and ran outside.
Yes, I understand this is dangerous, but I never claimed to be trained or certified in matters of devastation, especially when confronted with my biggest judge, a very scary creature to have not developed breasts yet.
It was time to meet my Nemasis, the last owl remaining.
I suppose it is cute, hanging with intention from a tree outside, made of pottery and painted in the shape of an Owl. I cut the rope, on my tippy toes, watching it dissemble before hitting the ground, the head broke in half, rolling under my car and stopping under my wheel, broken glass side up.
“Damnit,” I cursed, belly on ground, shoving inch by inch to it as I broke, straight to the ugly cry.
Grabbing a stick and hitting it made it roll to the other tire, my tears now making strange contortions in my body. My mother could see my girls whenever she liked, provided I was there, and so how was I to tell my preteen who didn’t like much about me as it were that there was something so bad, so flawed that my own mother couldn’t even bear it, not even to see her girls, who I know she loves.
She’d hate me and I didn’t blame her, or the damn Owl for that matter, so with a concrete face and smeared mascara, I was a sight rolling from under my car, the cursing and crying to a God I liked as much as Darth Vadar didn’t make for a proud moment.
How I wish this ended in a rehab story, but instead I got the head, chucked it and all I heard was “pink, pink, pink,” and the damn thing landed in direct position of passing vehicles, certain to cause a flat if hit, so I screamed profanities and told it to go back to the G-damn Goodwill and other seriously deranged statements a lunatic might say to a piece of Owl pottery.
I kicked it until satisfied, slipping a little, my hurt pounding like bread dough in a Southern biscuit special, I felt I got it out, whatever it was, until I turned.
My baby, my nine year old with her big serious brown grey eyes were open as wide as they could go.
I had lost all account as how long ago I had gone crazy or filthy mouthed, beating the shit out of an Owl qualifies for therapy, if it were not too late. Every horrific site of her in paIn, pulling out hair, every Dr. Phil show where parents remove all furniture for their own safety flashed in segments. I had nothing.
She was traumatized for life.
Here it came. I closed my eyes and from the child who rolled her eyes like she were presenter for the “eye roller” child of the year award, who did not want me to call her Kat, a new horror I am guilty of constantly, looked at me, paused, and so i sat in a dramatic suffocating moment of sick remorse.
She grabbed my hands, in our yard, the actual Public, tears filling and not because i said no computer, but real tears. She threw her teeny body in a hug I haven’t seen since she found friends and sleepovers.
I think I was in shock.
“I want to be the mom that you are,” she said forcing my chin down to look through me.
I was either shocked or disassociating, I’m unsure.
“because, she finished, all you ever want is for your kids to be free.”
She pointed in serious gesture to me. “You mom, you know what it means to let me be free.”
She pointed to the ground now, arching her back straight, to finish her thought.
“and that’s what I’ll be too…”
She patted me now, easing out of the embrace, and if I could tell you what the hell that has to do with me pulverizing a poor pottery Owl while crying like a lunatic, I may be qualified for this mothering job, which obviously I am not.
Maybe she thought I went nutso over her comment over the pancakes and has been trained to diffuse highly emotional moms.
Maybe she is really the Owl, wise and old her soul came here, light years ahead of my evolution, sometimes I feel I evolve slower than a chicken in a crock pot not turned on, and even if she stopped our special handshake and gave away all her dolls and criticizes my cooking, she really sees me.
To be seen is all I ever hoped for and Owls even at night, have the perfect radar vision.
Maybe she really just wants that Xbox 360 for Christmas.
Maybe she is part fairy, part owl, a mix of my mother and I combined, and she understands that my broken Owl holds a truth I just can’t see yet.
Or maybe she saw no broken owl, just her mothers broken heart, a thought I hate.
Maybe in unknowingly letting her see me flawed and wrong and insane, she saw my mess and loved me the more for it.
Owls can see perfectly at night, the only creature who flies with precision and beauty and purpose in the midst of complete and utter darkness.
And perhaps, so can my Kat.