This blog post is dedicated to all the women who have made the decision to take the journey on this unknown, circuitous, nerve wracking, often bumpy, yet painfully joyful path that is motherhood. But most especially, this is for my own mom.
I love my mother, and my mother loves me. This is a fact in our lives that we can both agree upon. It is one of the few agreements we share.
Truly, you’d never guess we came from the same family, our differences are so vast. I like the ballet; she likes golf. I enjoy classical music and going to the opera; she prefers the twang of country, and doesn’t know how to read music. When Barack Obama became president, I threw a huge Inaugural Party complete with pictures alongside a life-size cutout of him (we offered our Republican friends extra wine); my mother cried in her morning coffee for three days.
Growing up, I had always been bit “different” from my family, and most especially different from my mom. Even from an early age, I tended to be liberal in my social views and had artistic tendencies, and well, just a natural inclination to disagree with my mom, on most anything.
During my pre-teen years, I thought I had her pegged. She liked to cook, she liked to read, she enjoyed knitting occasionally, and she maintained a very clean house. She kept to herself for the most part, choosing family over friends any day of the week. At the time, this seemed like a depressing state of affairs to me indeed. Me, who loved to meet people and do a variety of things that usually entailed an extrovert’s flair.
In my late teens I had what you might call an epiphany about my mom. Like a lightning bolt, it occurred to me that my mom was an actual person. I mean, a real whole person, with her own secret wishes, dreams and a lifetime of unacknowledged accomplishments. She wasn’t put on earth for the sole purpose of serving me. This came as a great shock.
It was then that I saw her in a new light. What I considered “boring” interests, she took great pleasure in because that’s what she liked, not because she was lacking any sense of adventure. What I saw as her limited world views was really her ability to be focused on her own values with utter confidence. And what I saw as antisocial was really her profound devotion to her family.
Through this expanded lens, I started to understand who she might be underneath all those thick and heavy layers of motherhood.
I had another great shock about a decade later. I’ve concluded it’s a Universal Law that, at some level, you become your mother. I started to hear myself repeat sayings to my own children that wholeheartedly annoyed me when I was a child; they leapt out from my mouth unbidden before I could catch them: echoes of my mother floating around in the air, unable to be silenced. Certain mannerisms and rituals suddenly became of the utmost importance: “No one is allowed to disturb me while I take a bath!” Things I had never thought I would care about became my code to survive young motherhood myself. All of this, adopted from my mom! This was met by (in this order): shock, denial, amusement, acceptance, and, finally … pride.
It seems the start to my own motherhood expanded my lens to see her more wholly yet again, and she grew larger than life for me.
She continues to grow, as I watch her care for her own aging mother, sometimes with tenderness, sometimes with frustration, but always with love. In adulthood, I see my mom expand again and again, before my eyes and in my heart, and I wonder how I will ever be able to hold it all.
I am still somewhat arrogant in my perception of her. Even now, I will often say things like, “My mom would never like to do that” or other such thing. Most of the time I’m right, but every now and again she will offer up a small reminder that I still don’t fully understand the mysterious creature that is my mother. Perhaps a liking to a color or style of clothing astonishes me, or a casual comment about me that makes me realize she just might know me better than I give her credit for.
I’m happy to say we’ve managed to weather our lives, with very good results. Together, we don’t look like a finished masterpiece glistening in unison and perfection for all to admire, but rather a work in progress, with stops and starts, scratches and blemishes. Instead, we are a silvered patina that is uniquely us, whose beauty is obvious to anyone who steps back a bit and takes their time to look. Including me.
Despite our differences, or maybe because of them, we make a good team. I push her to see “outside the box” in life, she in turn helps me to stay grounded in the world. As I look back to our history, it’s clear we’ve earned the right to call one another not just mother and daughter, but friends too.
It’s still apparent we are very different kinds of people. But however large our differences are, she will always have a strong pull on me that cannot be denied, no matter. She is the sun in which I orbit. How brightly she shines.