My mother was one of those happy, peaceful, loving women who truly enjoyed children, listened well and was very caring. She had me when she was only 20, so she was a young mother, and very beautiful as well. She was 5’7″, 120 pounds and she had long, straight, jet black hair down to her waist. She was a great dancer, had a beautiful singing voice and learned to play the guitar alongside my father. Together they would sing old folk tunes from Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan or John Denver. She was also incredibly insecure, and believed my father would take care of her. Because of this belief, she followed him all over the country, every time he said we had to pack up and move due to loan sharks chasing after him. She went through many periods of uncertainty in her life as my father was manic depressive and sometimes would not work for months, even years. She thought she had to support him through his drinking, his gambling, his bad business decisions and his criminal activity. And she did. For 20 years. Crying, rocking and back and forth on her bed, thinking she was crazy, feeling out of control, confused and sick. There were many times that I saw her sad face and simply thought she had just turned into a sad person. But that wasn’t the case. What was the case was that she was scared to death to take action for her life.
But when the loan sharks started coming to her door and threatening to take away her children if her husband didn’t pay his debts, she finally said enough and kicked him out of the house and divorced him. But this was a long time in coming because, like I said, she was scared to death. It meant being on her own, getting a job and supporting her children on her own. She didn’t think she could do all that. She thought she was too stupid, uneducated, unprofessional. Who would give her a job? She was just a Mom.
I had a very difficult time with her at this period in my life. I was around 16 when she started working, first as a secretary and then as a part-time press photographer for a county newspaper after having taken a couple classes at a community college for photography. I resented this behavior in her. How dare she not be home when I got home from school. How dare she not have cookies made, or banana bread in the oven waiting for me and my brothers. How dare she go out at night and have fun while we were home alone. How dare she shake the foundation of my life and change it to the point of something unrecognizable. Once, I said to her, “I liked you better when you had no identity and just did stuff for us, not you!”
For many years I floundered. I lost myself in boys. I traveled the globe without purpose. I avoided the reality of who I was. I loved my mother, but I held a grudge against her for taking so much away from me. In my mind, she had become selfish; I miss the old days when she was selfless. Eventually, though, I came around and saw what she did as one of the strongest points in her life. She did become a little selfish, but it gave her a strength that we’d never seen in her and it shook us. But I realized that she didn’t want to change either. She would have liked to keep her head buried in the sand too. Wouldn’t we all. And yet, a funny thing happens when you finally decide (or when the decision to sink or swim is forced upon you) to take control and responsibility of your life…you have no choice but to change and become something at first unrecognizable and then, beautiful.
Since those days (25 years ago) she has become the beautiful woman she is now; happy again, still loving, still giving, still a great listener. Her core goodness still shining through. Still creative and strong at her job (she’s the Editor in Chief now). And loved dearly by a good man that she has been with for almost 20 years. If I had my choice now, I would never want her to be that woman she used to be. That woman is a stranger to me. This however, whether I like it or not, inspired me to be the strong woman I am today. And for that, I love her.
Mothers struggle and suffer for themselves and for their children. And although your kids may not understand why you do what you do now, someday they will. Keep moving forward. Keep creating goodness in yourself. Let your life be an example for your children. They might not thank you now, but they will.
I’m wishing all mothers a happy day of peace and continued recovery.