Another mother’s day post, you say, throwing accolades at the worthy women of our lives. Well… no, not really. I’m sure you would expect nothing less from this blog than to hear something different, right?
My mother has been deceased since 2003, and I still miss her. There are many things about my mother that I don’t miss, but certainly the connection we had with each other, severed with her passing, is something that will always leave a gap in the place that she held, in my heart and in my life.
I learned from her as much how not to parent as I did how to. In between the mess of doing our worst and our best, our children take away exactly what it is that they need to know. I’m sure that somewhere down the line my son will think along similar lines… assimilate the stuff that works and reject the stuff that doesn’t.
Becoming a mother was one of the most transformational experiences of my life. Until then I could only guess at what one feels when one gives life to another human being. Until then my only point of reference to motherly love was what I felt coming from my mother, and what I in turn felt toward her.
Her love was wildly fierce, but it came mixed with so many other things, the detritus of her past that molded and shaped her into who she became. She of uncommon independence before there was a such a thing as a women’s movement. She who kicked a soviet soldier in the ass (after chasing him down, for grabbing her older sister’s breast while he and a buddy walked by on the sidewalk beside them) and cussing him out in Russian. She who, at the age of 38, with nary a suitcase of “stuff,” left her mother land and crossed a militarized border to pursue the ideal of freedom. Amazing cook… fastidious homemaker… talented clothing designer and seamstress.
She was also an unbending disciplinarian; the wooden spoon ruled in our home until I was old enough to grab it out of her hand and ask her if she’d like me to whack her with it to see if she liked how it felt. And while she may have taken care of many of my physical needs, she was inept at building my self esteem; in fact, she routinely went about tearing down the things that were meaningful to me, the things that I was vested in emotionally, based solely on the fact that they were “unrealistic.” What I remember hearing many times was “stop floating around with your head in the ether and get back down to earth.” Embittered by her own experiences, she felt that life was a pointless exercise in disappointment, rife with trials and tribulations. Cynicism hardened her to most everything, except her love for me… and then I left her as she was growing frail and elderly, to start my own life three thousand miles away.
My time away from her and the rest of my family was bittersweet. While my mother and I kept in touch long distance, it isn’t the same as having someone close by. You miss out on the day to day interactions that can be wonderful times, though in many ways the distance was a blessing, at least for me. It allowed me to grow as a human, to transcend the sort of suffocating control that my mother, my family and others who knew me from when I was a child would manage to impose on me. I broke out of the mold. I learned to breathe… and to fly.