Thursday, November 19, 2009

For Mimi

Today, I went looking for this story in my old blog because my godmother is on my mind, for all the wrong reasons, and I'm worried about her...and I'm worried about my mom, who is worried about her.

When I wrote this back in October of 2005, I was struggling to get back into running after Scotty was born (O.M.G...he's two months old and I'm still doing 11 minute miles! The sky is falling! Goodness, the drama!) and I had decided to do a little 5k that was scheduled for when he was around 10 weeks old.

Because I wrote about running in this blog, it would be considered totally normal to write up a 'race report' after any event. This particular report was pretty abstract, but it gets there, eventually.

I love Mimi, and I think she would like this story. Here it is, minus 5 words and one sentence. (Because I've had to learn how to edit my inside thoughts! :)


I've mentioned here before, in passing, about how I'm a heathen. It's not entirely accurate. It's true that I don't believe in any specific "god" or doctrine. But I have faith that a [non-specified] something is much larger than me. I can look at a rock, or a tree, and I know I didn't make it. And so I embrace all the possibilities of the universe. Allah, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus; they are as likely ~ and unlikely ~ as any other deities. And, to my way of thinking, as likely ~ and unlikely ~ as werewolves, aliens, and voodoo. I don't personally believe in aliens, or God either, for that matter. But I accept the possiblity that as long as somebody does, it's part of the human experience. At my core, I'm a humanist, and I believe in the human experience. For me, I don't feel the need to "pick something". And deep down, in the secret recesses of my heart, I don't believe one thing any more ~ or less ~ than another.

There are two people in my life who do have such faith. Both of my grandmothers. Grandma Dot, a Dutch-French Presbyterian; Grandma Mary, a pure Irish Catholic. My maternal grandfather was Roman Catholic, and so it was up to my parents to officially leave The Church. Before they did so, at the age of 23, they ensured my brother's and mine places in heaven by having us baptized. My younger brother, by five years, is on his own. Though my godmother assures me that if my parents had held the faith, she would be his godmother too.

My godmother is my mom's best friend. They've been best friends since they were 12. Marie (or Mimi, as her family and friends called her) was, is, and always will be, completely crazy. Really. She is whacked. But we all love her. The night the police called and told us my brother, my mother's first born, had been found dead in a hotel room in San Francisco (just another overdose) my mother crawled into bed and didn't come out for four days. The morning after the phone call, it was I who called Mimi and told her my mom needed her. She hung up the phone, got in her car, and started driving. She forgot to pack, and stayed two weeks, but when you've got those kinds of friends in your life it's good to overlook their quirks.

And she came by it honestly. This is actually a story about Mimi's mom, or Mama (pronounced ma-MAW) as her family and friends called her. Mama was married to a Portuguese immigrant and they had five children that they were raising in the big cities of the Bay Area, first Oakland (where they grew up with my mom) and then later in San Francisco. I don't know what happened to her first husband. But I know that her second husband came equipped with six children from his own first marriage, and they took all eleven of their children to the farmlands of Northern California, just north of Sonoma County in a tiny town called Healdsburg. Healdsburg, before it became a suburb for the lawyers and doctors who commute to Santa Rosa, was teeming with hippies and communes. But Mama was pretty strict with her kids, and so they lived in their big, dilapidated farmhouse and they all had farm-y chores that had to get done.

One day, Mama's second husband up and left. Leaving his 6 children behind. And so Mama raised all 11 as her own. A single mom, running a farm, with 11 kids. Noble, yes, but by all accounts she was cracking from the stress and slightly (or overtly, depending on who you talk to and how much wine they've had) abusive.

When I was a child, Mama's farmhouse burned to the ground. I don't know the circumstances, but we drove up there and when we pulled into the property, where there was once a two story farmhouse, there now were charred beams and rafters and little else. The chimney was in rubble, and for some reason (perhaps it was our sole purpose in going) we began to load the bricks into my dad's van. We brought that chimney, in pieces, home with us.

My dad was in the process of building my mom her own farmhouse, and he planned to use those bricks in the two enormous corner hearths he had planned; one off the kitchen and one in their bedroom. This is the same man who took 16 months to [not quite] finish my kitchen remodel, and it took about 6 years to build the new house. Around the old house. While we all lived in it. It was fun, an adventure, but having lived without a kitchen for a while, I'm much more sympathetic to what my mom must have been going through.

During the course of those six years that huge pile of bricks often became an issue. When we went to stack the wood for winter, the bricks were in the way. When we went to build a chicken coop, the bricks were in the only logical spot. When my dad went to expand the foundation on the east side of the house, the bricks were in the way. Every time the bricks were in the way, my brother and I had to move them. We would stack them, one by one, into a wheelbarrow, wheel them over to the new spot, unload and stack them, and repeat this for hours. Until the new location proved inconvenient for whatever reason, and then we would stack them, one by one, into a wheelbarrow, wheel them over to the new spot, unload and stack them, and repeat this for hours. Those bricks sucked.

Then, one day, my dad built the fireplaces. They are...stunning. The aged bricks and the worn wood mantels and sheer magnitude of the fireplaces, everything came together to make an amazing work of art. And it wouldn't have been the same without the history, tone, and timber of Mama's bricks.


This morning, I got up when Scotty was falling back asleep after his 5:30 am feeding. I got ready to go and I snuck out of the house when it was still dark. I drove for 25 minutes and registered for the 5k. The same event where I did the 10k, last year.

All this, that got me to here ~ the treadmill runs at 9:30 at night, the walking, the working myself up, from 5.0 mph to 5.1 to 5.2 and now to 5.3; the blisters on my boobs, the pains in the bottoms of my feet; the fact that I've awoken every morning for the past three days with a raging sore throat ~ (hello aspirin, my old friend); all of it. It's like moving bricks around. It sucks when I'm doing it, and I often feel like it's a lot of work for just about no progress at all.

But then, today, standing at the start line with 200 of my closest strangers, standing in the fog and watching the sun start to peek through the mists; looking for ~ and finding ~ my mom's cousin and getting ~ and giving ~ big hugs before moving to our respective starts; talking to runners, about running, while running; deciding at 2.5 miles (in honor of Jon who would be just starting his marathon and whose advice, no doubt, would be to "leave it all out there") that I would speed up instead of slow down, as my legs were wanting to do; carrying the secret that under my normal-looking running shirt, I was sporting 2 different bras and three Fantastic Four bandaids...; all of it.

Today, I built a fireplace, and suddenly, moving all those bricks? It didn't seem so bad afterall.

5k, 34 minutes. Exactly.


  1. Mia, I've had two piles of bricks, a small pile in the front and a large pile in the back yard, since moving into the house. I've been procrastinating on moving them. But,I have two upcoming projects which will require me to move the bricks. Hopefully, I'll find the "right" spot. Moose

  2. Ha, Moosie, that's great! You should know that I am a brick-mover-extraordinaire...just say the word!