As much as I hate to admit it, much of the spirit that has moved me in my life, informed my choices was the searing desire to not end up like my mother and father. Mostly to not end up like my mother.
Did she do anything wrong? No, not really. Well, yes she did. She had me.
By that statement I mean that she got pregnant just out of high school and did what she needed to make sure I had a roof over my head and all the other things parents want for their child. Food. Love. Safety. Toys. Common sense when playing with those toys or crossing the street. She gave up herself for me.
Why would I not want to be like her?
Because she told me not to. To not be like her. Not in so many words. But, she and my father did say these things to me: Wait a few years before getting married. Don’t skip college. Don’t have children before you are ready. Oh yes, that was the big one. Don’t have babies while you are young. That one played in an endless loop. I was four when I remember hearing it for the first time. But, she didn’t mean it because she was sorry she had me young. She just looked ahead for her daughter and wanted things to be different for me.
She will tell you that she and my dad were happy to be 17 and 19 year olds with a baby on the way. They both said that recently.
Their words made me feel a little less guilty. Guilty for thwarting the kinds of dreams a lot of kids have today about what they want for their lives. But, maybe my annoying and insistent presence kept them together. Forced them to grow up. Even their pictures at that age didn’t show two teenagers. The snapshots show two parents. Serious. Steady. Anything but silly. Except, when they posed with me. I added a little of the silly back.
Telling me that I was wanted means a lot because now my father is gone. I’m still here so I guess that means he is too, in a way. Besides making babies, my mother and father made a life. But, it was a life that they both kept telling me to avoid. Not because they were sorry about their lives. But because when you finally get a road map, you want to tell other people which road is easiest. They started life without that map. All they had was a compass made of heart and wit.
My mother has some problems. I may have some of those same problems. They aren’t easy challenges and these problems can suck the soul out of you and those who love you. But, still it is fine by me if I end up with the kind of strength and courage my mother so often showed over the decades. She never ran when things got tough. She hid sometimes and still hides when it hurts. But, she never left.
Since this blog is about grief and writing, and using writing to make sense of loss and grief, as I write my story, I have to make sure who my mother is lives in the story even though it isn’t about her. Writing a memoir seems the same as weaving a tapestry, the aim is to create a tableau that makes sense to even the casual observer. Though the story I’m writing isn’t about my mother or any perceived childhood traumas, there would be no “me” in the story without there first having been a her. A her who smiled when I first peered into her eyes and gave me all she had.