Sunday, May 8, 2011

In Gratitude For My Mom

When I was younger I lived in fear that my mother would die when I turned 17.  As I grew closer to that age I would lay awake at night, the street light casting its shadow on the shag carpet in my bedroom,  terrified, often counting down the months and days we had left. I never went to my mother to tell her how scared I was.  This was the sixties. It was a rare family that talked about feelings and fears. Most of us had parents who grew up in the Depression and survived WWll. Food, shelter and clothing were their top of mind concerns not a young girl's imagination run wild.

But it was not just something my creative mind pulled from nowhere. Like all good fiction it was based on a kernel of fact. My mother had lost her mother when she was 17.  I grew up thinking that everything that happened to her would happen to me at exactly the same time.

Turns out I had my own life to live and part of that has been the gift of still having my mother by my side at 88 and going strong. Like any relationship that lasts this long, we've had our share of ups and downs. Years of only knowing how to speak to each in a high pitched voice filled with impatience and disagreeing on everything from my new hairstyle to why she insists on frozen broccoli when fresh is so easy to come by.

The big turning point happened within the last decade. It seemed to coincide with me learning to like me more. You see it turns out we are similar in many more ways than a strong physical resemblance. The source of our disagreements over the years were those hot buttons we each had, the things each of us did not like in ourselves was even harder to take in when we saw it mirrored back.

Then I  took my very first class at the School of Womanly Arts with another mama I am in gratitude for, Mama Gena. I had little idea what I was signing up for at the time, but I will tell you the last thing I thought it was going to get me was a better relationship with my mother. But it did.

Something happened as  I learned to love me more. I started to look for what was right and not wrong in me. I started to embrace my imperfections  right along side the stuff I was proud of. So when I saw those qualities in my mom I reacted differently. It didn't anger me. It made me smile.  And in turn she discovered more of her own adorableness.

Mom tells me we started out with her teaching me everything and now she learns from me. That is what happens when you are as lucky as I am, to be a fiftysomething woman who still has her mama to hold her hand. Things change. And as she likes to remind me, these days it is her holding my hand.

To you Mom, I am grateful for your laughter, your warmth, your generosity, your sense of style, the way we can laugh and be silly,  teaching me to cook and bake and the importance of family and connection. Most of all I am grateful for your unconditional and never failing love. Happy Mom's Day!

Me and Mom


Unknown said...

that gorgeous photo brought tears to my eyes!! or maybe it was your beautiful tribute to your mom. anyway- thank you for the rush of gratitude. feels so good!

Unknown said...

my pleasure...truly!

Karen Quinn said...

I love your Mom's June Cleaver outfit! I guess women did dress that way in the 50's. You are your mom look so much alike. What a gorgeous tribute this is.

Jamie Cat Callan said...

Oh, Joanne-What a beautiful and very moving post. I love the photgraph too! You are such an inspiration! Love, Jamie P.S.. Hope to see you at the Tribeca B&N on Monday, May 16th. xo

Unknown said...

Jamie, I have the date on my calendar.
And thank you for reading!

Stephanie said...

So lovely, Joanne!. You really do captured that bit of truth that we daughters do not realize until we are truly women: Our moms did not know everything. They were doing the best they could, just as we now do the best we can.

Realizing this brings such warmth to what can often be a very challenging relationship!