I realized when you look at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know.
The mother/daughter bond is complex and it changes with each stage of life. Over the passage of time, from childhood to adulthood, the emotional bonds of intimacy and vulnerability are being established. Whether our relationships are loving, fragile, fraught with conflict — or a synthesis of all of these — our mothers have helped to make us who we are today. During the lifetime we share we come to a mature acceptance and understanding and an immense gratitude for the impact we have on each other.
I had one of those moments, the I-just-didn’t-realize instant when my relationship with my mother forever expanded.
In preparation for her 80th birthday celebration I’d gathered old photographs, talked with friends and family members and listened to lots of stories in order to try to capture her essence and her life.
Sounds simple enough but it wasn’t easy. Despite all the different hairdos, outfits, looks and sizes over the years, I really had only one picture of her in my mind but there was an aha moment when I realized that she has played many roles to many people in her life — that she is much more than just my mother.
As fate would have it my mother had to go it alone because death took my father out of the picture. Like her mother before her she was left to support my brother and me on her own while she struggled with the realities of the full spectrum of life. There was no woman’s work; it was all work that had to be done and since she was both breadwinner and nurturer she worked hard. Extremely hard. I never heard her complain about it but sometimes at night, when she was in bed, I could hear her crying softly as she struggled to sleep. She wanted to stay strong in front of us. Her belief was she would do what she had to do to keep us together. That was the immigrant mentality she was raised with and the values that carried her through the toughest of times.
She didn’t know what lay in store for us so, with two young children, she took control of her fate and did boldly what she knew how to do. There was no option. As a woman who didn’t know how to read or write English she supplemented her meager monthly Workman’s Compensation pension by caring for children during the day and sewing for clients at night, all so she could remain at home to care for us. She was a proud and dignified woman and never took a hand-out or a dime from anyone. She just figured it out somehow. We never went hungry and we were always well-dressed and well-loved.
Like most mother/daughter relationships over the years, we have consistently loved each other and driven each other crazy at the same time. We’ve always worked things out and been there for one another. I haven’t always told her how much I appreciate her because, quite frankly, I spent too much time being her child while around her. So, it’s about time that I share some heartfelt sentiments.
I admire your strength. You’ve had a difficult life and yet remain one of the most resilient people I know.
I admire your love and acceptance. You love everyone for exactly who they are and make extraordinary efforts to make sure your love is felt.
I admire how well you take care of yourself. You know how important it is to stay healthy in order to maintain quality of life.
I admire what a wonderful friend you are. You are always there for people with kind words or a listening ear to support those who need it.
I admire how much everyone loves you.
You taught me by example how to be patient and kind. You value my opinions and encourage me to express myself honestly. You always make me feel special because you appreciate my strengths.
I really do want to be just like you Mom. I’m starting to have the same facial expressions as you. Some of my habits are strangely similar to yours now. I know my Christmas cookies will never taste as good and I’ll admit that I’ve given my children every piece of advice you’ve given me, even though I rejected it at the time.
I try, Mom. I try.
You are a wonderful mother and friend. I’m glad you are mine.
I love you.
An excerpt from Wear Your Life Well: Lessons on the Journey to your Truest Self.
Copyright: Helene Oseen 2017