Journal

Mother, Touchstone, Friend

14 Feb , 2019  

We mothers – we are merely rudders, guiding our children’s ships through the storms and over the turbulent seas of life – we guide them as steadily and as best we can, but we are not the only influence that determines the outcome of the journey…

Who am I today? I am a woman, a daughter, a wife and mother, a writer. I am confident with unexpected moments of self-doubt, calm with occasional thunderstorms, selfish but generous, affectionate but reserved, intelligent with a few Swiss-cheese holes in my brain, rational but prone to flights of fancy, a dreamer with her feet planted on the ground – and I see none of that as contradictory. I am my mother’s daughter.

mom-childMy mother nurtured me with love and learning. My parents married young, with the understanding that both would attend and graduate from college. Did having a baby at nineteen deter my mother from her commitment? No! She told me once that my earliest bedtime stories were chapters from her college Psych texts. If I am determined, efficient, and able to multitask, it’s because I was raised by a woman who could study, cuddle an infant, and read to her child simultaneously!

Astrologers might argue that the Pisces child, born on a Sunday, so near the pull of the ocean’s tides would naturally be gifted with creativity and a vivid imagination. But I contend that any innate creativity and imagination I possessed was nurtured by a mother who got down on the floor and played with me, allowing herself to be cast in the thousands of roles I invented for her. My love of writing was sparked when she installed a bulletin board in my room, and daily pinned a writing prompt – a quote, a photo, some whimsical item – to it, and supplied me with endless reams of paper and a variety of pens. She later insisted that I learn to type; much, much later, I thanked her for it.

SLS-Gr1-croppedI have a great appreciation for languages. If I can’t speak fluent French today, it’s not my mother’s fault! My mom’s answer to a whiny eight-year-old who cried out, “I’m bored!” was to enroll her in private French lessons at Berlitz. Latin was a 7th grade elective; my mom elected it for me. If I believed that college was just an extension of a child’s compulsory education, it was my mom’s doing – she was still working towards her Master’s degree when I was twelve! She made reading and studying seem as natural as breathing, as essential as eating. Blame my mother for the fact that I started college at age twelve – the early French lessons, her schedule of classes from Kent State lying open on the bed, and my natural curiosity combined: “Do you think they’d let me take French I?” Well, why not? With three years of French under my belt and both of my parents there to support my request, doors opened – and I was enrolled in summer school!

mom-deb-portraitOkay, maybe I can’t speak French fluently today, despite eight years of lessons – but I have learned to entertain myself! If I love Oldies, it’s because my mother handed down her 45 RPM records and a phonograph; if my tastes are eclectic, it’s because she also made sure I attended the symphony and the ballet, met Beverly Sills, saw Linda Ronstadt and The Irish Rovers in concert, and took piano lessons. If I can appreciate fine art, it’s because one of my mother’s most cherished books was Jansen’s History of Art – and because she saw to it that I got to tour the Louvre.

While my mother built my confidence and self-esteem, she took care never to talk down to me, never to sugar-coat the truth, never to inflate my ego unrealistically so that the world at large could tear down what she had so carefully built. All her life, I could rely on my mother to be a trustworthy touchstone: she was an honest critic as well as a staunch supporter. If I am happy, content with who I am, it’s because my mother never allowed me to believe that my best wasn’t good enough. If I am able to appreciate constructive criticism and learn from it, it is because I had a mother who dished it out with love.

Twenty-six years ago, I became a mother, myself. When I held my daughter in my arms, I realized the awesome responsibility my mother took on at the tender age of nineteen. For the first time, it hit me just how much I was loved. And that’s when I knew that the debt I owed her was marked “payable to my grandchildren,” and I know that it’s probably one that I can never fully repay.

july-2001grandpaWhen my mom died – on Valentine’s Day, 2002 – I lost not only my mother, but my best friend. Though she always insisted “It’s not my job to be your friend – I’m your mother,” she couldn’t help but be both. I miss her, especially on Mother’s Day, but because of her, I am strong enough to wipe away the tears, smile, and go boldly forward in my own journey of motherhood.

It’s a wild ride, with all the crazy ups and downs of a world-class rollercoaster. But I am thankful for every minute of it, and I am so proud of the people my children are becoming.


9 Responses

  1. BellyBytes says:

    I can imagine how you must miss your mother as your children must miss you now that they have flown the nest.I am lucky to still have my mom ( and mother-in-law) around at 61. I’ve heard that one never really grows up until one loses one’s parents. I’m glad I still have to grow up.

    • My dad’s still around (hi, Dad!) so I am only half grown up. 🤣 But there have been so many times that I’ve picked up the phone to ask my mom for advice or just to share an experience, only to realize I’m on my own with that… I don’t think we’re ever really ready to lose a parent. It’s hard at any age. I just remind myself how much harder it must be to lose a child, and it takes away a bit of the sting, knowing she didn’t have to endure that.

  2. Thanks for sharing this lovely bit about you. Moms are special! Yours was truly awesome, to nurture you to be the wonderful woman that you are today.

    Cheers,

    Mitch

  3. This was a wonderful story. I understand how it feels when your loved one passes away on a holiday; my dad passed on Father’s Day in 2002. Looks like both our parents expected big things from us; I need to stop failing mine.

  4. Peter Wright says:

    That is a lovely tribute to your mother and proof that she understood the parenting job so much better than most of us. It speaks volumes of the dedication of that generation and is perhaps, strong evidence that character and commitment can overcome the (perceived) disadvantages of becoming a mother at a young age.

    • She managed to have me, earn a Bachelor’s degree, and model the importance of education throughout my life, but never once made me think being a young mom was a disadvantage. She claimed it was what she’d always wanted to be – a wife and mother. If anything, her youth came with the energy to keep up with an active child! (I should say, though, it was HER mom who got down on the floor and let me cast her in every fantasy role from troll under the bridge to frog prince to old gray mare to my fairy princess!)

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