I meant to write this post for Mother’s Day, but it was pretty nice not dealing with the internet or this blog or twitter or facebook for a couple of days over the weekend. I recommend it.
Now that the girls are a bit older, I sometimes imagine what kind of mother/daughter relationship I’ll have with the girls when they’re both adults. Will we be close? Will they feel like they can come and talk to me? Will they feel like I can understand them? Relate to them? Be there for them? And then I ask myself the same questions about my mom. It’s such an interesting journey, that relationship with your mother. My relationship with my girls are still so young, but the one I have with my mom spans 40 years. See that photo up there? I was probably around Claudine’s age, 4. I remember looking at these series of photographs a lot when I was a kid because I made a different goofy face for every picture of this photoshoot. Even back then I wondered why I couldn’t keep a straight face, not for a single photo.
I can’t remember whether or not I’ve told you that I was apart from my mother between the ages of 1 and 3. My mom has accomplished a lot of hard earned, impressive entrepreneurial feats in her professional life. She is fearless in that regard, but she always used to say that she is not brave when it came to her personal life. I’d say leaving your firstborn to come to an unfamiliar country all by yourself when your baby is only a year old takes some balls. My mom is also the most generous, selfless person I know, but if there was ever a time in her life when she was selfish it’s when she left, but I know now that she had to be. So I’d also say that leaving your new family to save your own life, in a sense, and maybe – just maybe – even your baby’s, is brave. Now that I have kids, I can’t imagine being apart from my girls that long and that young. Those are some crucial bonding years right there and I’d have to think that the reasons to leave, not all of which are known to me yet, run deep and hard.
I don’t know how that absence has affected me throughout my childhood, but what I do know is the earliest memory that I can remember as a child is arriving in New York with my dad and pushing my mom away. I remember pummeling her with my fists and pointing to the sky, yelling that I wanted to go to back to the mother I knew at that time, my grandmother, who raised me during those years. I can also remember the very first nightmare, which became a recurring one, that I had as a child probably when I was about 4 years old. I was laying in bed in my room and I saw someone poke their head in my doorway. When I looked up, the face was covered with a brown paper bag with 3 crude cutouts for the eyes and mouth. It frightened me and I can still picture clearly what that brown bag face looked like. When the person took the bag off their face, it was my mom.
Aside from those early turbulent memories, I’d say that my relationship with my mom became pretty solid. She was a great mom to me and my brother despite all the things that went on in our dysfunctional household, and I know she worked hard to hold the family together. We don’t have a buddy/buddy relationship, then or now, and we have never been great about talking to each other about our feelings, but I know that our relationship has always been good.
We’re still working on it though. When I see my mom with her mom, the woman who raised me as a baby, I think about how long and deep their history runs. My grandmother also left her family at some point when my mother was young. I’m not totally sure, but at some point, her and her 4 siblings may have been parent-less for awhile. No one really talks about the past much; my family has always been about looking ahead, so I can only piecemeal the few stories that I have. But what is it about family that makes it easier to forgive, forget and try and repair relationships? I know that’s not always the case, but I see how my mom is with her mom. I see how she is with my dad. For the most part, despite the past, we are all still together.
So now it’s me and the girls. I don’t have any unrealistic expectations that we’ll act like best friends when they’re older. First of all, the age difference between me and Mia is a full 10 years older than the age difference between me and my mom. I also don’t want to try and be hip or cool or whatever. I just want to be their mom. But I see shades of the future as well as my past self when Mia’s in a grumpy mood and won’t talk to me. I don’t know if she’s far too young to dismiss her feelings by telling me “it’s nothing”, but it sort of scares me. Like a lot. So I have to learn how to talk to her so she opens up to me, just in the same way that I have to learn how to talk to my mom. Because no matter what – and this I’ve learned from experience and observation – you don’t ever stop being a daughter, or a mother.