Motherless Child

Hello Interwebs,

If you’ve just started following me because of my political posts, you may want to skip this one. It falls into my navel-gazing sub-category and with good reason. It’s about my mom.

So depart now and pretend this blog isn’t here – or enjoy my navel.

I am at a loss.

I am in a loop.

I blame Eminem.

On Mother’s Day, he released a music video, directed by Spike Lee, for a track called Headlights found on his newest album MMLP2. It features fun.’s singer, Nate Ruess, on vocals. Admittedly, both Eminem and Spike Lee are problematic creators. They’re both love ’em or hate ’em artists and they’ve both tasted a lot of foot. They also speak to me. Loudly. There’s something oddly therapeutic about the products they create. They are violently honest yet hyperbolic. Their imagery is moving, but a lack of subtly means that it is also discordant. When I am sad or hurt or raging, I consume their art because it’s healthier than the alternative.

In short, their work makes me feel less alone.

The came Headlights:

Don’t worry. I’ve considered the arguments about the authenticity of his feud with his mom. I know it may all be story-telling. Still, his story-telling built scaffolding around my collapsing psyche when I needed it, so I’ll take it as told. I’m selfish that way. When this song came out, though, I immediately loved it, hated it and watched it about 20 times.

My first thought: “Am I the only person left in the whole world without a mother?” See? Selfish.

I know that the world is full of motherless children. And admittedly, I have one out there. We just haven’t spoken to or seen each other in about a decade and a half. You can understand why I hated this video. I’ve treated the persona of Eminem like an angrier, more violent and faster talking version of me. He was a celebrity avatar for things I couldn’t express. Cleaning Out My Closet? I was all over that. I’m clearly not alone. It has more than 50,000,000 hits on YouTube (and despite distancing himself from it, he still has the song on his official VEVO feed, so it’s possible it’s all BS.)

That doesn’t change how raw the last few days have left my innards. If Eminem can reach out to his mother, what does that mean for me? Nothing? Everything? That’s where the loop comes in. It’s going around and around my brain. It’s a clog in the system, holding up everything else. I can’t shake it.

It comes down, I think, to two truths:
1) I miss my mother.
2) She’s not my mother.

Oh, she’s my biological mom, alright. I just need to look in the mirror to confirm that. I’m even greying in the same pattern. The circles under my eyes are the same shape. Cheekbones. Chin. Eyes are different. Forehead.

Still, I don’t call her mom (I have here, for clarity, but I don’t in casual conversation.)

There’s history there. You can see some of it in my sorely neglected webcomic. There was violence (a broad word that here indicates so many layers of injury) that I continued to enforce long after she’d kicked me out (she would say I ran away, but history is told by the victor and there is no victor here.) There was the sort of psychological damage special to the children of young mothers who make bad choices. There was the not seeing. The oblivion. The obsession. There was also the glee, the clever conversations and oh so much candy. People can be dichotomies, but mothers are not given such permissions. They are allowed one side of the binary and my mother failed to fill her niche.

I’m bitter about it. I was raised by Pentecostals, so forgiving or forgetting plays like sloppy dogma to me. There is no absolution. Time does not undo, like laces tied too loose. (I’m still in knots.) I have never been petitioned, so forgiveness hasn’t been mine to give. In my mind, we exist in the place between the infraction and the apology. It is homeostasis and if it’s mine to change, I haven’t yet sussed out how

I guess I found solace in someone who was equally un-mothered. I’ve always done this with song. I have a small collection of tunes that I call on to exorcise my self-pity or, as the flawed logic of homeopathy goes, feed it more of itself until it is forced to self-cure. Paul Robeson’s Motherless Child, Tracy Bonham’s Mother Mother, Cat Steven’s Father And Son, each song feeds a different hunger.

I know (don’t worry, I’m sometimes sane) that this song has nothing to do with me. It is not related to my life in any way. Except that it is and I miss her and I cannot have her and I am not sorry.

And that is all I have to say.


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