Monthly Archives: May 2013

Stretch Marks


photo by ilona sturm


The first bands of stretch marks lined my inner thighs and lower back, places exposed by my black and white striped bikini, the year my body blossomed into womanhood, smoothing, widening, and scarring.

While swimming at the river, surrounded by sparkly granite rock, I would crane my neck back and turn my hip to see if these first scars of womanhood were visible to anyone else. I sucked in my belly too not realizing at all that it was nearly flat — as tight, and, flat, and smooth as it  ever would ever be.


I didn’t bother putting any kind of wives-tale-advice lotions or creams on my belly when I was pregnant — no cocoa butter, no honey butter, no Mederma. My mom had stretch marks; my sister had stretch marks; I would have stretch marks too. The tattoo on my belly, once a water serpent, stretched to the size of a thunder lizard.

My breasts grew too, from a 34A to a 36B, to a 36C, and by the time I had the baby, I was a 36D. Within the first two months of giving birth, I went back to a C cup. For somebody who had in the past hardly ever wore a bra, I sure had collected a lot of them.


My son breastfed for two years; by the end of those two years, he would drain the left breast quickly and say, “mama, chicanana side,” referring to the tattoo over the right breast. I ignored people who said that children should be weaned before they could ask for it by name and those who said I held him too much. He loved chichi. He stared at my breasts, patted them, rested his head on them and soothed himself to sleep. While nursing, he’d gaze up at me with eyes so big and full of love that each time it was as if I had never recalled being loved that much before.


photo by ilona sturm


By the time I weaned us both, he was capable of reaching his dimpled hand into my shirt, under my bra, pulling out a breast and latching on. I’d let him do it; sometimes I didn’t even notice.  Now, my breasts are stretchy and elastic, and somehow larger than before, or perhaps just longer, and they are lined with stretch marks, scars of motherhood, the kind that you don’t hide, or complain about, or call a sacrifice. 

Does Your Mom Play Drums? — Listen To Your Mother 2013


MCG and her son LM after the show

When I was playing drums in a punk band, rocking out in a tank top and no bra, or just a bra and no tank top, I didn’t imagine my favorite performance would be with my ten- year-old son.

For three years, Luis Manuel played piano in his school’s variety show. In fifth grade, he decided to play guitar. Guitar was way cooler. He had taught himself to play guitar in like three months, you know, on youtube: chords, notes, picking, everything. He was going to play a rock song for the variety show; Sean was going to play with him. They began practicing three months before auditions because they didn’t want to suck and they had girls to impress.

Then Luis heard a rumor that Sean wasn’t going to play with him.  When he heard it again, I suggested he find a third person for his act just in case, but he said maybe Sean was just too busy to practice. Then two days before the audition, only two weeks before the actual show, Sean admitted that he was going to be in a dance act with his popular friends instead.

A dance act? Who in the hell would rather do synchronized dance moves like some boy band over playing actual music? It occurred to me that for fifth graders this variety show had more to do with showcasing your friends than actual talent.

 “Do you want to be in their dance act?” I asked.

He rolled his eyes. “No, I want to play guitar.”

I was relieved.

In tears the night before the auditions, Luis sat on the couch with his Les Paul.

“Maybe, I won’t do it,” he said.

I took a deep breath to hide my panic; then I told him to play every song he knew. I would help him decide which sounded best. He played “Float On” which needed another guitar, The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” sounded good, but the picking needed work, and the Weezer song had one really hard chord. When he played Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” we both knew it was the one.

Then it hit me. Luis’ participation in this event had become our family’s way of not being totally invisible. I worked full-time and made an effort to be involved, volunteering in the classroom and going on field trips when I could, but I was not part of the blonde moms’ crowd, the stay-at-home moms’ crowd, or an attending member of the PTA. I was the Chicana with chest tattoos married to a dark-skinned Mexican with an accent. I wasn’t going to let some fucking dance routine, keep my son from changing his mind about performing in that show. Besides, I knew he wanted to.

“I just wish I had someone to play with.” He looked dejected.

“You know, I can play that song on drums in my sleep.” I tried sounding nonchalant. But it was true, anyone who played rock drums in the 90’s had learned to play that song, had wanted to rock as hard as Dave Grohl.

You want to play with me?” he made a face.

 “Look, I know you don’t think it’s cool to be in an act with your mom, but the auditions are tomorrow; there’s no one else.”

“Okay, “ he said, sounding the way you do when you know you’re totally out of options.

I wanted to hug him, jump off the couch, plan our outfits, and gush about how fun it was going to be, but I restrained myself.

 “What if someone teases me?”

“Just say this: “Does your mom play drums?”

Still nervous that he was going to be teased for being in a band with his mom, I knew I had to tone it down, wear a loose fitting tank top and a bra, and no flashy make-up. I did put on red lipstick called “Rocker” before leaving the house. I wanted to stand out from the PTA moms and help my son show his friends what real and inspired talent looked like. Getting on stage and playing the drums in front of the entire school without lipstick wouldn’t achieve that. 

 “Next, we have Luis Manuel Peralta playing ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’” the MC on other side of the curtain read from the intro we wrote,  “and no, that’s not his mom on drums.” I heard loud laughter, the curtain lurched open, and Luis launched into one of most recognizable chord progressions in rock and roll, drawing whoops and cheers from the crowd. Then I came in on drums, careful not to hit the snare as hard as I could or move my head wildly as I had in my band Spitboy. 

Like we practiced to combat nerves and to help us stay together, we made eye contact across the stage, mother and son. I nodded as we made the transition from the intro to the soft part that follows, and by the time we got to the distinctive chorus, da, da, da diga, diga, diga, da,da,da, the crowd was roaring. Luis looked up from his guitar, and I saw his anxiety slip away. Then as we wound down for the big finish, Luis locked eyes with me and smiled wide like he did when I nursed him as a baby. The crowd went wild and Luis’ girlfriend swooned in her chair; his friends in the dance act jumped to their feet and clapped; my husband stood at the front of the stage with the camera grinning, and lots of other husbands rehearsed what they’d say as they approached me afterwards. And me and my son punctuated the end of the song, hitting each beat together, ba, ba, ba.

This piece was written specially for submission for the cast of Listen To Your Mother, of which I was member with thirteen other women who told their stories too. Special thanks to all my LTYM sister — what a great adventure!






Listen To Your Mother, Damnit!


Listen To Your Mother 2013 — San Francisco Cast
Photo by Kari Paulsey

“I don’t think you’re going to get picked,” my eleven-year old said. I was about to audition for a seat on the cast of the national Listen To Your Mother event. I almost scolded him for being rude, but I realized from his tone that he was trying to help me not get my hopes up too high, trying not to get his hopes up too high. After all, the piece that I submitted was about him.  I measured my response carefully, not something I always do, admittedly, but I was well rested after good night’s sleep in preparation for my audition. “Well, I did get this far, and you know I’m a good writer and reader – so watch me get it.” I thought about giving him the when-you-know-how-to-write-well-you-can-get-things-that-you-want-that-you-might-not-be-able-to-get-otherwise speech, but I figured I should wait until I actually got it.

And I did want it, wanted it so bad that I wrote a piece specially tailored for the event, something funny, something touching, a little bit Louie CK, a little bit Erma Bombeck, with a dash of Patti Smith. And I didn’t just write one draft, I wrote six. The first three changed a lot; in the last three I honed the language, keeping in mind it was to be read aloud and that it couldn’t exceed five minutes. In addition to the six drafts, I had three readers, people I trusted to be honest. This process turned my cruddy first draft into a tightly crafted, well-written narrative containing conflict, rising action, a climax, and falling action. It was funny, self-deprecating, sassy, and sweet. Still I had to wait over a week to find out if I had earned a seat on the cast out of fifty-four people who auditioned.

My son waited until after we got in the car to ask how it went. He was in the back seat, Ines, mi marido, was driving, and I was in the passenger seat

“So, how do you think you did?” my son asked.

“I think I did pretty good.” I turned in my seat so I could see him.

“How do you know?” he asked

“We’ll, the producers, Kirsten and Kari said I did a good job.”

“They probably said that to everyone.”

“You’re right,” I looked back over the seat again to make eye contact with him.

“But Kari, the one who didn’t read any of the pieces before hand,” I paused for effect.


“At the end of my piece, she cried.”

“She cried?”

“Yeah, she cried.”

I turned forward in my seat and smiled, figuring that in just a matter of days I’d get to give the when-you-know-how-to-write-well-you-can-get-things-that-you-want-that-you-might-not-be-able-to-get-otherwise speech, and I couldn’t wait.

Buy tickets for the 2013 Listen To Your Mother event while they last!