As I reflect back on motherhood, as the child, as an observer, and an active participant, I find the above quote to be absolutely on point.
Maya Angelou described her own mother as a "hurricane in its perfect power" and "the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow." Wow! She must have known my mother too.
I believe that you never fully understand or appreciate your own mother until you are one yourself. It is in those dark moments of worry in the wee hours of the night wondering where your child is and what they are doing, that make you regret the agony you inflicted on the one person who would lay down their life for you.
When it has been a minute since you've seen your children's faces, you wonder how often your own mom yearned to see yours.
A thoughtless, unkind word delivered from the mouths of your own seedlings sends a dart of poisonous regret through your heart when you remember how often you were short, unthinking and hurtful to the one who would forgive you anything and everything.......and did.
Did my mom ever wish I would just show up unannounced only to spend a moment with her? While she might have wished it, my mom knew that was impossible because we lived too far apart. And my mom was fiercely independent. She enjoyed being on her own, having her own life, doing her own stuff. When she was alive, I might call her only to have her say "did you need something?" "No......I was just calling to check on you." Wrong Answer! She was fine thank you very much and after all we had just talked last week.
While that stung a little, I have come to know that she knew I couldn't fix anything for her. And, maybe....just maybe....had I called the day before, she might have actually needed to talk to me. She was busy living and being present in her own life and her own space. And...good for her.
And, while she still loved me completely she was okay with me having my own life. It was my knowledge of my failings as a daughter that made those moments of disconnect so painful for me.
As a girl, a little girl, I thought my mom was perfect. As I grew older, I expected her to be perfect. And, ultimately the time came when I "saw" her as the perfectly flawed individual she was. And, shame on me....I resented her for it. Yes, I knew that everyone had their little blemishes and warts....but my mother was supposed to be perfect.
I mean....come on! This was the person I was supposed to listen to! This was my role model, the person responsible for shaping me into a good role model for my own children and a beautiful partner for a husband.
This woman was my road map to being LOVELY, and she was anything but lovely herself at times. Her standards were unreachable, her temper a frightening thing to behold, her criticisms were biting and much too often right on the button.
She did not raise me to think I was a fantastic person, even though she often told others that I was. She frequently remarked on my use of hair color (when I wasn't coloring my hair), and never failed to mention that after worrying about me not eating as a child, she was surprised to see that I had gotten "fat." Not heavy, not plump, certainly not voluptuous....just plain old fat. I would venture a guess that she never said that about me to anyone else....other than family.
Mom did not guard her tongue. And while that was certainly disconcerting at times, in some ways it was delightfully refreshing. You always knew where you stood, what she approved or disapproved of, and exactly what she was thinking. I've realized, with time, that she operated in the only way she knew how. She had not grown up with a loving, engaged, and nurturing mother herself. Therefore, she lacked a certain amount of insight into child rearing. We were both lucky that through my formative years, I was a pretty easy kid to raise. It was only after I reached the teenager period that we chafed against each other.
But....I also saw her loving, compassionate nature exhibited in her care of her own mother throughout her life. She had taken care of her mother when she was a child and continued to do so as a grown woman. She also never complained about the toll my Daddy's illness took on her. She was a born nurse and it was in these situations that she shined. She had been a care giver her entire existence and it was almost as if she never quite knew what to do with herself without someone who was ill to look after.
Mom raised me to be humble, hard working, independent, and STRONG. She taught me that it was okay to be myself. Imperfectly perfect and perfectly flawed. At some point, my own children will have occasion to look back on their own mother and analyze what made her tick. That frightens me a little. My husband has told me that the dynamic between my mother, myself, and my daughter is one he can't figure out. Maybe it is because (and none of us EVER want to admit it) we are very much alike at our core. We are like the bumpers posts in an old pinball machine sending objects and people ricocheting off of us. There is a lot of noise and confusion at times.
While my relationship with my son in its early years was hard, that has leveled off and we have settled into a pretty good place with each other. Boys are like that...I think they really want to see the best and think the best of their moms. My daughter was an easy raise and for a long time...she adored me. I mean she was absolutely mine. As she grew older, she came to know my failings and faults as well. I feel bad about that because I know how much it hurts to see those unlovely things in your mother (your role model) and try to find a slot to shove them in. And bless her little heart....she has two daughters. The circle of mothers and daughters Chapter 5. But, I am in awe of her as a mother. I couldn't imagine a better person to raise my granddaughters.
And so, on Mother's Day...I pay tribute to my Perfect Mother who in all her imperfections became the standard I will forever hold myself to. Thank you mom, for loving this imperfect creature you gave birth to and for always forgiving me in my shortcomings as your child. Oh, and mom, do you know what that white stuff is in bird crap? No..................it's bird crap, mom. (for the 100th time - she always fell for it)