Mothers And Daughters
Happy Mother’s Day! I know it’s late. And I don’t usually post on Sunday. But I had to pay tribute.
When I was five, my mother went into labor early and delivered her first son prematurely. He died three hours later. These days, chances are he would have lived. By current preemie standards, he would have been robust. She was very young; 26 (yes, girls, 26 is quite young). When she speaks of it now, pain is still present. At that time, her devastation must have felt infinite. I imagine her holding him those three hours, and saying goodbye, and it is too much for me. The people in her small university community were very kind to her, bringing food and treats and helping with her three little girls. Helping with the funeral.
After the funeral, an elderly lady approached my mother, took her hand, and held it for a moment in her own gnarly wrinkled ones. She looked at their hands together and told my mother that once, her own hands had looked just like my mother’s smooth young ones. While this may sound like an odd, even introverted comment at such a time, my mother was touched, and remembered it. I wonder if hope somehow manifested itself in the older woman’s gesture.
Years later, while my sisters and I sat with my mother at her kitchen table talking, my mother took one of my hands, which looked younger then than it looks today, and told me that story. Her hands were beautiful—but they looked older than mine. And now mine are starting to look like hers did then. I have daughters who have the soft, lovely hands of young womanhood that I once had. It’s a little surreal, this mothers and daughters thing.
Just a couple of years ago, I went through a traumatic but necessary development interval. Where I had to make peace with discrepancies between long-cherished expectations and reality, or go crazy. For awhile, I was angry with my mother, which I regret now. I believe it was part of the process of learning to accept responsibility for my own happiness. It doesn’t matter what exactly I was angry about; in my pain, I was a child again, sure I was entitled to comfort and previous protection, but terribly uncomfortable, terribly vulnerable. I didn’t lash out (thankfully), but I did distance myself. I didn’t realize how hurtful that distancing was, until my oldest daughter distanced herself from me. Which quickly ended my little pout episode. Knowing the mistakes I’d made with my daughter, but also knowing how deeply I loved her and how hard I’d tried to give her everything she needed to be happy, I saw my own mother more clearly. I was grateful for her love for me, and longed to be close to her once more.
I love you, Mom.
There have been years I’ve hated Mother’s Day. Resented the unattainable ideal, the contrived sentiment. The implied expectation of pampering and spot-on tear-inducing gifts. But this year, I let go. I just let it be, and was glad for the mothers around me, including myself. We’re all terribly flawed. We have embarrassing moments and tragic failures. But we also have such enormous capacities to love. Sometimes, we love really, really well.
PS: I must also mention my mother in law. I could write about my grandmothers, and I am very grateful to both of them for sure, but…I’m convinced the one in heaven knows my heart already, and the one on earth doesn’t see this blog; the computer doesn’t figure in her daily routine with dementia. I’ll write about them later; this post is already much longer than I planned. But. My mother in law provided safe haven for my daughter as she fumbled with her launch. She has provided safe harbor for me too, at lonely times. She raised a gentleman who would move earth and sky (if he could) to make me happy. She insists on gentlemanlike behavior from her grandsons. These are all gifts that I benefit from…I can’t help but thank her for them. I love you Edna.