Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mothering

In case you have been wondering where I've been, well I haven't been anywhere really, but my mother came to visit on Mother's Day weekend and stayed for SEVEN days.

Now, those of you who know me, might be wondering if everyone survived the visit. And the answer is, surprisingly and miraculously, yes we did.

For those of you out there that don't me that well, let me explain a little why a successful visit with my mother is nothing short of miraculous.

I moved out of the house at a very young age (16-ish), and was eager to put as much emotional distance between myself and my mother as possible. I've written before how I was not out there winning the "Daughter of the Year" award, but really -it takes two, ya know? So many years have passed since then, and I really hate thinking about all the insults and names I threw in my mother's face and the guilt trips and names she called me back in my those tortuous teen years.
Kids and parents fight, right?

But I've always known that a big reason for our animosity for each other is that my mother always wanted me to turn into something spectacular and amazing and I was always disappointing her. As I danced and drank my way through the party world of the Dallas underground scene, she thought I should be writing a poetry collection. Instead of going to college, I should be out there somehow saving the world from something or another. She saw so much potential in me.

When I met the man who is now my husband, he had a hard time understanding that under no circumstances did I want the big wedding in a church with all of my friends and family there. To me, I thought my mother would see it as a public display of how I failed to be something MORE. So, we went to the courthouse on a sunny day in March and tied the knot. My soon-to-be-husband couldn't in good conscience marry me without my father's permission, so I allowed my dad to be there under strict orders to not tell anyone else. On our wedding day, only my father, his girlfriend, and a couple that owned a boat repair shop that we casually knew, were there to witness the birth of a wonderful marriage.

I waited until June to tell my mother what I had done. Her first response: "I was afraid you would do something like this. (big sigh)"

When I found out that following October that I was pregnant, I waited until almost Christmas to tell her. My husband and I were living in New Braunfels, a safe 274 miles away from my mother. I sat cross-legged on top of the kitchen counter with the phone cord stretched tight from the dining room. I had a pie in the oven, and the kitchen was full of the smell of warm cherries and buttery crust. We talked about Christmas plans, how maybe next year we would be able to spend it together, and the weather. Then I said, "Mom. I'm pregnant. I'm due in June." The phone was silent. Finally, she said, "Oh Candi. Are you sure this is what you want to do? Trust me, kids have a way of sucking the life right out of you."

She was not there when Dalton was born, but we called her to tell her the news later in the day. She drove down six weeks later to see her first grandchild. I don't remember much of the visit, except that it was short - not more than a long weekend.

Two years later, pregnant with my daughter, I decided to bite the bullet and tell her right away. I was in Dallas for some reason and I was driving my mother to a doctor's appointment. I turned down the car radio and keeping my eyes on the road and trying not to put too much emotion into it, I said, "Mom, I'm pregnant again. Another June baby." I braced myself for some biting, hurtful remark. My mother turned her head away from me and towards the car window and muttered, "You're just a regular baby making machine aren't you?" Somehow I waited until she was inside the her doctor's appointment to cry.

She wasn't there when Sabrina was born either. There was another short visit from her a few weeks later. Again, I can only remember that she was there and then she wasn't.

In the almost seven years that has passed since Sabrina was born, my mother and I have tried to understand each other in small amounts. With my own children I sometimes find myself thinking about the potential they have and all the things they could be. But then I step back and tell myself that I will love them and support them in whatever direction they choose. I will celebrate their victories, both great and small. My mother sends thoughtful and appropriate cards and gifts for her grandchildren. Stickers at Easter. Books at birthdays. Coloring books and candy at Halloween. Toys at Christmas.

When Sabrina was two years old and Dalton was four, against all of my protests, my mother moved to New Braunfels. She said she wanted to be closer to me and my brother, who had also married and started a family in New Braunfels. I looked at it as certain doom. But she came anyway. And once my children were out of diapers, she really starting showing affection for them that I slowly came to believe as genuine. She would spend hours drawing with my son or reading to my daughter. My mother began to insert herself into my domestic life and nearly always joined us for holiday events and sometimes Sunday supper. She started telling me I was doing a good job. She praised the accomplishments of my children. She complimented my cooking. As much as wanted to take her words as some sort of apology, I found myself searching for sarcasm and insincerity. But tentatively, I began to believe her.

When we moved to New England last fall, I knew it upset my mother. She came by the house as we were packing the last of our belongings and I could tell that the move suddenly became real to her. And seeing the loss of "us" register in her eyes, made it my loss too. I didn't know if I would miss her when we left, but knowing that she would miss me, my husband, the kids, the dog, gave me an empty feeling right in the pit of my stomach. I wanted to tell her, "But this is it - my big adventure you always wanted me to take! I'm going into the unknown! Yes, I have a husband and kids and animals in tow, but still! An adventure!" Instead, I gave her a hug and promised to fly her out to visit soon.

And so, my mother came to visit. And it was good. She was up early each morning to see the kids off to school. She helped them with their homework. She offered to help with cooking supper. She went on a field trip with Dalton's class. She gave the dog treats.

She did not complain - not even once. She did not criticize my parenting. She did not make a single hurtful remark or roll her eyes at something my husband said. She did not tell me I made another mistake.

On Mother's Day, she handed me a card. It was a typical card for the occasion - purple envelope, blue and white flowers on the front, a sweet little saying on the inside. And then, at the bottom, a hand written note, "Candi - I'm so proud of you! You're the best mother I know. My love always! Your Mom."

So yeah, we survived my mom's visit. I think she is finally proud of me.





(me and my mom - 1977)



8 comments:

lolaperl said...

wow candi!!! very poignant, touching and true! i think the mother daughter relationship is such a tenuous one. no matter your upbringing, socio/economic standing or family size all daughters feel this way at some point and all mothers do this to their daughters in some way. we all want to hear what a great mom we are from our number one critic, our mother, no matter what type of mother she was. we need those words to be put out there into the universe if nothing else to validate who we are..... So from one great metrowest mom to another...you done good!! LOVE this post and the pictures!!!

Barb said...

Yeah, you know, my mom is the most amazing grandparent to my kids. It goes a long way to healing the pain of my childhood.

This is a great post.

Just Jules said...

thanks so much for finding your way over to my blog today. Let me know you are coming next time and I will put on the tea.

WA said...

I really enjoyed reading this--the writing is great. And the picture is fantastic--I think I had the Dorothy Hammil cut myself in '77. :)

Wendi Aarons

Tracy said...

What a sweet pic of your an your mom.

Thanks for stopping by my blog today! I love your blog's name!

Tracy said...

Oh, this post, just gave me chills.

I'm so glad that your mom has seen and acknowledged to you what a wonderful mother you are!

That was probably the best mother's day gift she could have given you. :)

lizzsmith said...

This made me tear up!! In a way it reminds me of my relationship with my mother. Thank you for those words.

KARMINA said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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