This is the thing about mothers….
Even as a small child some of us will understand that our mothers have secrets. Longings and hidden sadnesses. Silent sorrows and quiet pains. Some of those things will only ever be told to daughters. And, in that way, we’ll be bound together for eternity by them.
Some of us will have mothers who tell us they love us each day. And some of us will know our mother loves us in some mysterious sense that we’ll understand even without her speaking it. Others will feel entirely unloved by our mothers.
Some of us will never be someone who had a mother who didn’t fuck with us. We’ll always be a person who had to escape from a crap pile to make our whole amazing selves up. Those mothers will unintentionally teach us that there is a whole world of people out there who will love us for who we are. A whole world of vibrant, fucked up, happy, conflicted, joyous, depressed people who will want us to be among them.
Some of us will have mothers who seem to innately know that what we sew into people is what they become. Mothers who were always aware that they were supposed to learn from us. As much as it’s supposed to be the other way around.
Some of us will forever be a kid whose mother never stopped reminding them that being a mother meant sacrificing things. We’ll know their sacrifices intimately — finding them through the years, tucked away in pretty-smelling drawers and heated conversations. Some of us will grow up worrying that our light makes our mothers sad over the parts of themselves they had to give up.
Some of us will have strong mothers. Not the kind who carry the world on their back without complaint— though mostly they do. But the kind that struggle to feel right in the world. The kind that are willing to make life-changing emotional and psychological shifts about who they are so that they can become the people they are here to be.
Some of us will have mothers who walk away from us. Who let the harshness of the world get at us without a second glance. Mothers who will not — or cannot — swim out to save us from our sea of broken dreams. Mothers who will offer no lifelines. Most of us will learn early that our mothers can’t shield us from all of the world’s hardships. And, in some cases, we’ll learn that they won’t even try.
Some of us will expect and receive unconditional love from our mothers all our lives. Those mothers will support our decisions and never once judge us for getting lost trying to find our way. They’ll be among the blessed mothers who realize that unconditional love — that helpless kind of love and grace we receive no matter who or what we are — is actually more often what children bestow upon their parents.
Some of us will have mothers who will teach us to chart our own course in life. They’ll show us something about finding the middle path, and how it only goes in one direction. Toward the light. Your light. The one that goes blink, blink, blink in your chest when you know that what you’re doing is right. The one, that if you listen to it, makes you stronger than you are.
Some of us will be lucky enough to have a mother who sees us as her mirror. And through every one of our bewilderments, struggles, sorrows and fears, we’ll unwittingly show her everything that’s going on inside of her. And she’ll teach us about deciding what of those things to swallow and what to cast off.
Some of us will lose our mother too soon. Or, she might be a hundred when she dies. Which, in many cases, will still be too soon. Our grief over the loss of her will be tremendous. But our love will be bigger. We’ll remake ourselves and be a new person in the world after that. And, on many days, we’ll still feel her in us. When we make a perfect stew. Or bake an apple pie. When we say something witty at a cocktail party. Or when we help someone. And it will make her present to us in an entirely different way.
This is the thing about mothers…
There are a million different kinds of them. Not one is perfect. Not one is super human. Our relationship with them is one of the most complicated and significant relationships of our lives. We tend to either idealize or blame them. We see them through a polarized black and white lens, leaving little room for the truth of the complexity of their lives — and no consideration for the fact that, in so many ways, our growing up is their growing up, too.
We come from our mothers. They are our first home. And, quite often, the map we follow with every step we take. Mine was part warrior. Part fighter. Part gardener of the earth. Soft around the edges, warm and kind in the middle, fortified with a spine of steel. I’m so glad she let me see her imperfections. It taught me to love those things in myself. And in others.
She is gone and I can’t hold her now anymore than I can hold the moonlight, but she’s tucked away inside my heart, with every good thing I want to keep for always.
The only things we will always have are the ones we hold inside our hearts.