ten cent wings? Nah, I think there's a big hawk in the neighborhood, but somehow he managed to drop only the wings of his prey onto our tiny terrace.
I used to joke on stage all the time about the wealth of material my mother provided for me. "Thanks mom" I'd quip. But it's true. Like any mother and daughter, there are complicated strains and stresses. But we had parallel desires to just get it right. Write it better, say it, sing it in a way that moved us, and then hopefully whomever would hear or read what we'd done.
Just Friday, I found this note paperclipped, (my mother loved her paperclips) to a card I had sent her years ago)
We never spoke specifically about the more difficult songs i wrote around my parents' divorce, their re-marriage (to each other) we weren't that kind of family. Sure, my mom would say, "I can't understand what you're singing, you really need to enunciate more carefully." And maybe when she was in the audience I was nervous that she WOULD get the words and so mumbled conveniently. But she never questioned my lyrics. And I can't believe she wouldn't have read the liner notes. I like to think it was a professional respect for poetic license. Her poems were never accusatory or dark like some of my songs, so it didn't really cut both ways.
I guess I have to give her credit for never fighting me, never criticizing what must have been harsh words for her to hear. I do remember struggling over the first line of "The Angel in the House" for over a year. ("my mother moved the furniture when she no longer moved the man. We thought nothing of it at the time.") My brothers urged me not to record it. It was too much. I tried a hundred other lines. I tried everything to soften it. But the song sucked without its opener. If it hurt her, she never said. "Love is the Perfect Crime"? Not a peep. "Walking"? Nope. "Blood From a Stone"? Never.
Just the other night at the Folk Alliance in Memphis, I decided at the last minute to sing "So Much Mine" and as I introduced the song, it occurred to me that I had finally felt 'motherhood' - gone through some of the hardest parts of 'mothering' in mothering my own mother. I really had to fight to get through it - Conjuring goofy pictures of dogs, clowns, anything in my head so I wouldn't cry at "You were so much, so much mine, now I reach for you and I cannot find you." It was one of those full circle moments. I get it now. Thank you mom, for my life with you. You are so much mine, and I am so much yours.