How My Mother Loved Me

I’m convinced everyone can frame up their memories of their moms as two tales “my years of torture” or “how my mother loved me.” Until I took on the job myself, I never truly understood the paradoxical but beautiful game of chess that is motherhood.
And then there’s Mother’s Day. Mother’s day has always thrown me for a loop. There were years where I stood in the card section of the grocery store wishing any number of those cards held meaning-or would even be acknowledged for that matter. I didn’t have that kind of mom. She didn’t bake pies or snuggle me. She did however hold me down and ice those overgrown caterpillars above my serious green eyes, and pluck with fervor while reminding me of life virtues; “beauty is pain!” she told me. She volunteered for the Camp Fire Girls, but only because she knew how to do it better. She was razor sharp, and everything she did was spontaneous, intense and followed by the need for a cigarette.
At report card time-I came bounding in with tears in my eyes, waving this pink transparent slip about. Yes, that slip that most parents ask for- the slip detailing all that I’d been up to for six hours a day, 5 days a week. This was one of those times it felt like I was begging her to care. Her usual response was a wide- eyed emphatic “ C is average Lisa!” I started to think her simply ditzy, and during puberty her inept mothering was upgraded to demonic. When she called me bipolar one day I realized she was misinterpreting the passion I had to make her see how disappointed I was in the job she was doing. I saw it as her putting it back on me- as if to take the burden off of herself. We aren’t all cut out for motherhood–her own mother was not especially maternal and it rubbed off. This she reiterated each time I asked her the story of my birth-first she’d respond to my disappointment I was not breastfed. “Nursing wasn’t IN Lisa. It just wasn’t the thing to do.” Then she’d go on to say how she walked out of the hospital in the same size 6 skirt she walked in wearing….then she’d chime in on how my father wasn’t even there….and how I cried so hard the nurses shoved me into the corner. She would end the story again with how good she looked 24 hours after giving birth-acting as if it was as life changing as having a mole removed.
What I realize now is anyone can tally up unfavorable stories about their mother. Just the other day my own son said to me matter-of-factly, “I do NOT hold grudges, otherwise I would HATE you.” At that moment an especially hot tear rolled down my cheek. Probably because even though these words hurt, he was mostly right. I know my mother’s values and see that she just wanted to make me tough. In retrospect, you should not send a kindergartner to school with a tummy ache in case, as was my experience-it’s actually an appendix that’s going to burst.
In later adulthood- I had tucked all resentments aside as if they were tautly perfect hospital corners she showed me when making my bed for me. She thought driving me to my appointment that day was enough. Half full. I could leave it there or I could go on……after my colonoscopy which left me with a crime scene for a bathroom and a much needed blood transfusion she insisted she only heard me drowsily say-“you can leave now”…Half empty. Even though I was delirious from pain meds she only heard me say- “I don’t need you.” As a mother, when we hear this phrase we recoil like a backyard slug freshly salted, just as damaged.
Years later, I have quit counting how many times she tried to “kill” me. She didn’t suceed. I know how conflicted her heart was the day she held out my overnight bag as I left with my boyfriend for prom night….
She was there when it counted, to take my stitches out, to press my graduation gown… Today I don’t even need to ask Mom-“Why-why were you silent the day I first moved out, loading my every belonging without even one tear? I know what her silence meant. Be it right or wrong-she was there-she was always there, and usually painfully early. And…. I do believe her intentions were good.

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