Meeting My Mother

02 Jun 2014

6/2/14

Meeting My Mother

Seldom do children really know their parents. By the time we grow cognizant of them as real people apart from us, we’ve formed a picture of them as outdated, time worn, dinosaurs. They are relics of another era. If we are lucky, we hear antidotes of their youth. Adventures they had when young. Events that happened to them in school. The sweet sonnet of how your father met your mother. But it is all tied, in our minds, to how it relates to us, and who we are.
I was lucky because my mother and her siblings often talked of their memories of youth. Even as a child I loved the connections of family. Who married who and then which family members were their children. I loved the stories of the personalities, antics, history, and events of my ancestor’s lives. It came to help me fix my own place in the family; and in society at large.
I was blessed by my mother with stories of how she came to be the woman who became my mother. I heard of my grandfather’s rambling life style, of his neglect of his wife and children, and the abuse of his wife which my mother came to understand as she grew to be a woman. All this shaped my mother. I heard stories of her beloved grandfather, Papa Henry, and of his love for his daughter which transferred to his first grandchild, my mother. I learned of my mother’s choices in leaving home so she could go to high school. Of her working as a servant in various households during the four years she attended high school. I felt her loss of the boy she’d loved since childhood, who left to join the Civilian Conservation Corp, then the military, and who didn’t look or come back. How my father came along, liked her, and offered her someone to love her. And that boy she’s first loved, coming back too late, just at the time she found out she was carrying me.
My mother was a feisty girl. She was strong willed and easily angered. She believed in standing up for herself, and she was determined. She got that high school diploma. She taught herself to drive a truck in the cow pasture, after my father told her he would never teach her how to drive. She was brave because when he left her, she went into the community, not asking for pity or a handout, but for honest work in order to provide a life for her child. She sacrificed everything for me. Time and time again.
Once in the last year of her life when she time traveled so often, she became the young wife she once was waiting for her husband to come home from work. In her mind she was preparing his dinner. It was a bitter-sweet moment for me. For I got to see my mother as a young woman in love and excited about seeing her young husband again at the end of the day. Her face became softer. Her voice honey sweet with anticipation. She had not yet experienced the arguments and the desertion that would come later. That was the sweet part. The bitter part was that I did not yet exist in that world of her youth, so she did not know who I was as she talked to me.
I have had fleeting glimpses of her as a child, a young woman, and a wife. However, the woman I knew was softer. Life had worn some of the fire out of her. She knew about heartbreak and pain: about loss and promises broken. But she never let that stand in the way of her dreams for me. I wish I had known her earlier, when she had those dreams for herself.

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·