Sunday, May 8, 2011

Maternal Mysteries

Mother's Day is always a little weird for me, not only because I chose not to have kids in this lifetime but also because of the very complicated relationship I had with my mother. Elizabeth (as she preferred to be called, or we could call her Mama, but NEVER "Mommy" - she hated that) was a total character. Everyone loved her, everyone found her fascinating. She was a great progressive thinker, a believer in the cause of the moment. She fought for Civil Rights and Women's Rights with a great passion. During the late 1960's she painted a huge, orange day-glo peace sign in our suburban Kansas City picture window, her way of letting everyone know she was against the Vietnam War.

Wow. That took guts in the neighborhood I grew up in. She was very idealistic, and very very brave.

That said, mothering was never her best thing. She loved us dearly, even me, the child she never quite "got." But she didn't really have the whole nurturing thing going on. She used to bristle at the idea of "raising" children. "Children raise themselves!" she would declare, as if mothering would, in some way, stifle us. It's true, we did raise ourselves more or less. She did what she could, and what she couldn't, she didn't.

I have absolutely no resentment about any of that, btw.

My mother used to look at me as if I had arrived by spaceship from another planet. She really didn't get me, not at all. She tried, but I was so unlike her, so unlike my siblings, that I'm sure she wondered sometimes if I was the product of alien abduction. I felt the same way. Even as a child I used to say I was from another planet.

The day my mother died was one of the most hideous days of my whole life ... that was BEFORE I found out she had died. Because of the timing, her death and that awful experience are linked forever in my mind/heart. It's no one's fault, it just happened that way. So you see when I think about my mother, as I often do (not just on Mother's Day) I experience so many conflicting thoughts and emotions.

It's all grist for the mill, eh? Oh yeah. Thanks, Elizabeth, for bringing me into the world. I hope you are flying high above the moon. Love to you, much much love. And much love to all you mothers out there. L'chaim!


linda said...

I laughed out loud about the 'orange day-glo peace sign'. She was very brave, because I know the neighborhood you speak of.

Being a mother can be a harrowing, confusing, frightening and sometimes thankless task...and that's on the good days, but in the end we all do the best we can and hope that the human beings we bring into this world won't be screwed up for life.

I'd say your mother would be pretty proud of you.

ellen abbott said...

I was not close to my mother. She loved us the way a planet loves it's moons. But she didn't like children. and she didn't like to be touched. admired, wooed, fawned over, yes, she liked that. and on Mother's Day we were expected to gush and mush. consequently, I never made a big deal out of it with my own children. they show their love for me every day.

Dan Gurney said...

Was yours the perfect (although often difficult) mother for you? My mother was my perfect (although often difficult) mother for me.

I like to hold the idea that we choose both our parents for our optimal development in this life.

Reya Mellicker said...

Dan I resonate with the idea of choosing one's parents, but I suspect that even between lives, we can get disoriented, or maybe sometimes we suffer from spiritual dyslexia, choosing one family but somehow getting turned around (by Lady Fortuna?) and sent to a very different kind of family indeed.

For a long time I thought I had the "wrong" family - but I changed my mind some time ago. My family was perfect, yet challenging. Oh yeah.

Ellen, "like a planet loves its moons" - wow.

Angela said...

When I was in America when I was 16 and saw all those Hallmark Mother`s Day cards, I simply couldn`t get myself to pick one for my mother. She was nothing of all that was praised there - not unselfish, not caring about me, not nourishing me with anything. But she was the one person I could helplessly laugh with, tell her of all my wrong-doings without fear, and admire her for being nobody but herself. I still think these are good qualities, but she was never what you call a "mother" to me. Did I miss it? I think I rather liked it.
Funny how you get to thinking about "my mother" on such days, if you want it or not.

The Bug said...

I've been missing my mom a LOT lately (hasn't helped to be doing this picture a day thing on Facebook - sheesh!). I'm not sure my mom got the whole business of mothering either, exactly. She was my best friend & we aided & abetted each other in mischief back in the day. Sometimes I think I could have done with a little more discipline, but other times I just miss the chance to eat cake at midnight with my mom.

Harlequin said...

My mother was a fantastic mother: she worked hard to provide for us, she was nurturing, kind, the right sort of pushy and was there for us whenever we needed her.

She died when I was 16 and I don't think I've still dealt with the blow, even after 8 years. Do you ever deal with it? Who knows.

I remember making a promise to her on her deathbed. Now that kind of promise packs serious mojo! Yikes!

One Woman's Thoughts said...

Ahhh . . . Mother's Day. A day that can be hard for many of us for many different reasons.

There is no perfect mother.
Mothers are just people trying to get through life. Although some seem to do it better than others.
I understood my mother so much better when I became much older, so many things made more sense, as I hope that my children will someday understand me.
What really matters is that she loved me.

steven said...

well reya! your mom's such a revelation and i'm happy for you that you got who you got 'cause clearly it was intended to push you along the path that's been placed (and which you are now placing) for your! i got a lot of space from my parents when i passed the fifteen year threshold as i was letting the poetry and the painting and the music just flow through me. it must've killed them because they probably were thinking that i'd work out to be useless to the world and whatever else success driven parents thought back then!! so here we are . . . i just read through all the comments here - wow reya. steven

Reya Mellicker said...

All these comments are GREAT. Thank you all for remembering your mothers as characters as well as moms.

Bug, the pics on your blog have been fantastic. What is remembered, lives, right? YES. Whatever your mom did or didn't do was all for the best because you are fabulous.

Steven, your parents just wanted the best for you. I see how parents worry about their kids. Don't you know your dad is smiling just as brightly as your mom in the pic, though he is somewhat removed.

Reya Mellicker said...

Harlequin, my mother died on December 16, 1983. It's not likely that I will ever truly comprehend that reality. I still think about how much I would like to give a call and talk to her.

When Obama was elected, I couldn't stop thinking about her. She would have been so jazzed.

One Woman? I'm sure your kids get it already, or will get it. What matters is that I was well loved. Misunderstood, but well loved. I'm good with that.

steven said...

reya thanks for noticing. i thought about him all day as i had lunch by the river with my two boys. he was so in them it was astonishing and he was so very there watching that photograph. slightly removed. he's in me sometimes too and he watches me. but he's doin' his thing now so i can't hold on too tightly can i!! steven

Reya Mellicker said...

I've tried holding on tightly - to a lot of things. It never works. Good to know he's in and around you and your boys. xx

Linda Sue said...

Yes, I thank Elizabeth for bringing you to this plane at this time- I am ever grateful.

debra said...

I thought about my mom yesterday, too. Before she died, she thanked me for teaching her about the beauty of mothering. My daughters were 6 and 9 at the time.
It's a funny day---and the challenge is how to make it more than a Hallmark day.

Reya Mellicker said...

It has never been a Hallmark day for me!

debra said...

never been a Hallmark day for me, either. Actually, no celebratory days have been Hallmark days.

Reya Mellicker said...

There is no such thing as a Hallmark day, except in the fantasies of Hallmark executives!