Wednesday, January 14, 2009

a mother's eyes

I suppose someone, somewhere will likely see my serial life revelations as provincialisms--these disclosures about my exhilarated love floods, the overblown changes of heart, the books I've read and reviewed, the detailing of my dog's days, the mad sporting, all my expectations, experiences, and intentions candied with such rich sentiment. Provincialism because it may have all been said before. But I prefer to see that as my commonality with you. It must be why you're here, to see something of yourself in another's personal pageantry, to hear your pleasures and pains set to someone else's music.

Now rest, gentle reader: this is not a dog blog in which I liken your hopes to my dog and her food bowl. In fact, I won't even talk about Stella here again (in this post, I mean--be reasonable). And guess what, I won't talk about civil rights either. Or my bicycle. Or training in the morning darkness. No. This is fresh territory, people. This is a shameless, off-key aria about the families we do not choose, the ones we're born into, and my witness to the ways we pay back the love parents give as we grow.

I recently attended the book launch of an obstreperous, exacting author of mine, Casson Trenor. We were together, a small tribe of thirty or so, to celebrate Sustainable Sushi, his noble and fine must-have book, an equal triumph in aesthetics and ethics, if I do say so myself. And here was this author outside the editorial office, in his element, a peer with whom I'd wrestled at every single stage of the book process--each of us as aggressive, articulate, and unaccustomed to surrender as the other, and both steadfast in the commitment to improve the book in ways we insisted were vital to the project. And how lovely it was to be taken by surprise by that stealthy sylph, sincerity. One would not be out of line to suggest the friends and family seated around me were visibly flush in the significance of Trenor's moment: the realization of a goal they'd seen him working toward for so many years, well before his proposal ever crossed my desk.

And with each course that came out from Tataki's extraordinary kitchen, Trenor navigated the room, hovering over one of his comrades--this one in the striped tie, that one in the dotted dress--and he thanked them one by one, each member of this gathered Algonquin clan a contributor in some way, a league that raised their sake glasses like sailors, a jostle here and there to roast and recognize in turns, shades of rosy pink warming all faces in the place. And I gotta say, it was pretty beautiful to see--tears, hugs, Golden Globes gratitude and all. It was one of those uncommon nights that shimmers with enough fair goodwill to mend personal rifts and plumb the bonds deep, deep, deep. And as I walked by the watered bamboo and tea lights, a bit high on all the rarefied levity, a hand sliced the air in my path. That outstretched hand belonged, it turned out, to Deborah, Trenor's mother. And she intended that we were to meet that instant.

Now as an editor, for better or worse, I rarely slow down my machine long enough to revel in the achievement of the book once produced. And in an era when slapdash products are flung onto the Amazon floor only to extinguish themselves some months later under the embers of their own outsize ambition, it is a grace for the heart and spirit to be genuine in my enthusiasm for a project, to be given the chance to say aloud, "Yes, this one will rise." And Sustainable Sushi is nothing if not the consummation of that endangered species in our consumerist culture: a singular expertise distilled in clean concentrate.

We spoke fleetingly. Trenor's mother. His father. His sister and his cousin. All in town just for this night. But the communion spoke volumes about the author, how pleased this family was, not unlike the in-group wonder felt when every child is miraculously born into the world. The book was here! A necessary, cogent, beautiful guide to a little mercy for our depleted seas and oceans. Something to slip into your pocket and use to buy sushi that doesn't destroy the planet on which all those little miracle children will be trying to live after you're long gone.

And I realized, really only half-listening to the family, that the years we spend devoted to causes, chained to the brutal wagons of our developing ideas always out there ahead of us, they're not actually spent at the expense of the ones we love. Because if you'll forgive the presumption in such a personal assessment of a woman I'd met only a moment before, I swear the look of pride in Trenor's mom's eyes as she declared to me with that forceful hand--"I just had to meet you. I'm Casson's mom."--well I'll tell you from experience: nothing can really begin to characterize the pride that emanates from a mother whose son has accomplished something great.

And I know: visit any old blog, any parenting magazine, periodical, even the sweeter game shows out there on TV, and you'll hear a mom enumerating the unique wonders, the treasures within her child's bright being. But let me tell you this: to see it first-hand, in the eyes of a woman I never expected to meet, whose son I came to appreciate first through his work, well however many times it's been said, a mother's pride is something singular. And I see how it makes it all matter.