Sunday, May 9, 2010

I Remember Elizabeth**



My mother was a complicated person, a very private person as far as her emotional states were concerned, but a very public person when it came to her views about philosophy, politics and theology, for instance. Sometimes when I think about her I wonder if she was connected, even internally, to her feelings. Most of the time I believe she just dismissed her emotions. When Martin Luther King was assassinated, I was shocked to see her cry. It was one of the only times I can remember her shedding tears.

She was passionate about many things. She believed in creative expression no matter what, was fierce about women's rights and civil rights. She believed in non-violence with every bone in her body, and yearned to live simply. She told us many times that Ghandi owned only three things - his robe, his sandals and his glasses. When she talked about Ghandi you could see a misty, far-away look in her eye. What a character she was!

Mothering was not my mother's best thing. Some parts of it she was really good at. She did love us all dearly, even me - and believe me, I was not easy to get along with as a baby or a child. And, too, my mother and I had such a hard time seeing eye to eye. We tried, but ... we just didn't "get" each other.

Some of my mother's radical beliefs got in the way of her capacity to be a guiding force for us. She used to say, "We don't raise children - they raise themselves!" She seemed indignant when she said this, as if mothering in some way interfered with a child's basic rights. She was such a funny one, my mother.

I talked to my mother the night before she died. We were never close so it was just one of those amazing synchronicities that we happened to speak. I was living at Lake Tahoe then; she was still in Kansas City. She said, "Sometimes I wonder why I keep living. Sometimes I think it's just a habit." I teased her about it during that phone call but I wish I had been able to take it in, what she was saying. I wish I had had the presence of mind to shout DON'T DIE! instead of making a joke.

She didn't think much of Mother's Day. To her this was a capitalist scheme invented by the Hallmark Corporation in order to guilt people into buying cards and gifts. Oh my mother - she was something else. May she rest in peace.

**After she read a book by Betty Friedan in the late 1960's she announced to us that she had been called "Mama" long enough and instructed us to refer to her by her given name, Elizabeth.

22 comments:

Butternut Squash said...

Happy Mother's Day Reya. Lovely tribute to your mom.
I'm missing my mom today too.
The kids came to me this morning, one in a wizard outfit, one with a bag of chocolate and their Dad with cards. The dog was the first to give kisses. Have a wonderful day.

California Girl said...

I don't know Reya, your mother sounds more out there with her emotions than you might have recognized. Her ferocity about women's rights and non violence and civil rights had to have come from deep emotions and perhaps that is how she channeled them?

Minka said...

Happy Mother's Day! Do you know why it is today? We do not celebrate it on the same day, but on 25th March. Some people prefer Mother's Day, others buy flowers and stuff on Women's Day (8th March). I think the latter is still more common.

Winston Riley said...

Mama Elizabeth. With eyes of all knowing, serene as part of the vast expanse of wind and sky and emptiness of root stock before it sprouts...the essence of your mother smiles and embraces you. Now and always.

Deborah said...

This is the most beautiful
and true
tribute to our mother
I thank you from the bottom
of my heart
and love you so

James said...

You should really have your e-mail posted so people like me can offer you things to give away to your readers and to give to you to try out.

Linda Sue said...

What an interesting in an interesting sort of way- mother...Is what it is, I guess, and you turned out to be loving and wonderful so there must have been some of that that leaked out...Elizabeth RIP...

Linda Sue said...

Oh and your second rose photo is stunning!!!!

Lynne said...

"She used to say, "We don't raise children - they raise themselves!" She seemed indignant when she said this, as if mothering in some way interfered with a child's basic rights."

Well, Reya, whether or not she was responsible for raising you or you did yourself, I say GOOD JOB.
;)

Jo Floyd Lucas said...

Sweet Reya, It appears you received the very precious gifts of independent spirit and strong political bent from your amazing mother.

It sounds as if she tried so hard to 'research' her parenting that she grew distrustful of her own instincts. That in itself is sad, but then, it may be what led you to become so very aware of yourself and your capabilities.

Thank you for this touching remembrance.

Expat From Hell said...

I'm not sure which impacted me more about this post - the mother breaking into tears on the sudden passing of Dr. King, or the one who is changed by reading Betty Freidan. What a throwback to another age! Thanks for posting this. EFH

The Bug said...

Your mother was sort of the opposite of mine - I was always trying to get out of her tender loving clutches. We were her best friends & she didn't really handle us growing up & leaving her very well. But I miss her anyway...

Reya Mellicker said...

Minka I love hearing these cool facts from you. Women's Day. We don't celebrate that in the U.S.

To the rest of you, thank you!

California Girl, yes indeed she channeled her internal emotions into political action. I never heard her say, "I'm feeling sad," or "excited" or even "happy." Personal emotions were taboo. She was very interesting.

As for the switch from Mama to Elizabeth, well, I thought it was so modern; I switched over immediately. One sister and my brother never really could get into calling her Elizabeth.

Dub, thanks so much for your blessing. Did you ever meet her?

And yes I miss Elizabeth, very much. Hope she's up there somewhere, flying high.

Ronda Laveen said...

Yes, may Elizabeth rest in peace...unless she's turned around and is back here with us already. With her kind of passion, it is entirely possible.

About her Hallmark conspiracy theory, when I see they triple the price of any card with the word "MOTHER" on it, I have to agree.

Blessed be.

Barbara said...

I applaud you for being able to make the name switch from Mama to Elizabeth so easily, but then I have to remember that you have changed your name several times during your lifetime. It has always been difficult for me to change the name of a person in my mind.

Reya Mellicker said...

People should be addressed whatever way they want to be. I believe that.

Ronda my mother has definitely not yet returned. It has taken her a long time to heal - or at least this is my sense of her journey.

Hannah said...

Thank you for this. It really touched me. Love, Hannah

Barry said...

Obviously your mother had character and spunk. Qualities to admire this Mother's Day.

Nancy said...

It sounds like she marched to her own drummer - much like her youngest.

Angela said...

I became a mother in the hippie times, and then I read "Summerhill" and I tried to be exactly the opposite of my parents - which all totally confused me! It is so difficult to be a mother once you start thinking about it. I have a lot more understanding about my own mother now, and I can only hope that my daughters have it for me.

Reya Mellicker said...

Angela my mother read Summerhill, too! That is so funny.

Angella Lister said...

Reya, it could be she was the perfect mother to let you be you. Your take on her inspires.