When I was a little girl my mom and I had matching outfits – pink, white and lime green, plaid bell-bottom pants and a pink t-shirt with a patch of the material from the pants. I loved it when my mom would wear hers’. I’d beg for her to so that we could be twins. I must have been about four years old.
The relationship between a mother and daughter is perhaps one of the most profound and intense ones a woman will ever have. I suppose the relationship between a mother and son is equally so – after all, a mother and child share the same body, space and blood for nine months. A mother gives the extraordinary gift of life – something for which we can all appreciate. But how fraught with complexity this relationship can be.
I think for women, people’s relationships with their mothers in many ways defines their identity as females, as well as their experiences being a mother. What then if one’s relationship with her mother was wounded and/or she has no children of her own? Where does one find her orientation in the cannon of womanhood?
I don’t know. I’m trying to figure that out.
Sunday is mother’s day. It has been a long time since my mother and I matched outfits. In fact, my mother and I turned out so different, I had a boyfriend tease me about whether the babies had been switched at the hospital. He also said (not jokingly), “I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize…”
It has been many years since I knew what to get mom for mother’s day or what to put on her card. And this year I’m not presented with that dilemma because last July she took her own life.
Historically, I experienced mother’s day as a burden. I felt indebted to honor a woman who I know without a doubt loved me but whose abilities to show this love in the ways I needed were at times quite limited. In a nutshell, I was my mother’s mother. She was the baby I’ve never had. I listened to her problems. I dealt with her messes. Alcoholism. Depression. Incarceration. Suicide.
On the one hand my mother was gentle and showed up and in other ways, I was left to completely raise myself.
I don’t know how to reconcile mother’s day. Not having a child of my own, I haven’t been able to look at the relationship from a different lens. But I don’t know that I’ll ever fully understand the depth and pain of this relationship.
I did not expect the sappy holiday of mother’s day to be as significant as it is. Or that I would be this sad. There are times when I long for those days when we wore the matching outfits. When she took my hand as we crossed the street. The days when she was there. Really there.