Tuesday, 20 August 2013
Lessons in Mothering
By Deb who blogs at Simple Not Easy
For Mother's Day this year some Facebookers changed their profile picture to one of their mother. So I added one of my mother, the one her family called "Little Matt" all her life.
One of my FB friends remarked that she looked “adorable" which about made me splort my morning coffee onto my keyboard.
Mother was tiny. She stood four foot 10 inches in her size four shoes and never weighed 90 pounds before she hit 50. But she was a force to be reckoned with, and she was in no earthly sense "adorable.”
Mothering comes in all forms and styles. My mother's style was Marine boot camp. You were scoured clean twice daily, dressed in heavily starched and crisply ironed clothes and drilled in piano and ballet.
You wore starched pajamas for your afternoon nap and were fed the traditional three squares a day Southern-style, a diet so high in saturated fat, salt and carbohydrates that none of her family escaped their 50s without heart attacks.
My older siblings thought I was spoiled because Daddy didn't whip me with his belt the way he'd whipped them but if I was spoiled I didn't notice. The one I was afraid of was my mother.
I remember looking at my friends' mothers and thinking, "My mama's different." She never kissed me or even touched me unnecessarily.
The only picture I have of the two of us together is a small grainy snapshot of her kneeling in the grass holding me at the age of six months. I am lying on my back, looking into the sun, arms and legs flung out in startle. She has a perplexed frown and holds me like an awkwardly wrapped parcel
As an old man, my brother would weep, "Mom and Dad never loved us," and I would gently argue that they did but neither of them knew how to show it other than to house, scrub and feed us.
Whatever love they'd learned as children was crushed beneath the weight of their own misery. Their relationship was like that of two tectonic plates slowly grinding the life from each other at the edges. They were not suited.
As an adult, I am inclined to be tender toward my mother. She had lived with my moody, melancholy father for 25 years when I was born. My sister was 23 and married, my brothers were off to college.
My mother filed for divorce and dreamed of freedom. Then she found herself pregnant and at age 44 produced an unwanted, homely, sickly child. Freud might make something of that, saying she was giving herself a reason not to leave but he would be barking up the wrong neurosis.
Her spirit cracked. I was a prison she could not escape. When my father worked nights, I would hear her sobbing and pounding the bedroom wall with her small fists.
She's been gone more than 30 years but time is only meaningful on a calendar. She is as with me now as she was one summer morning when I was five. She'd pulled green onions from the garden and while cleaning them, stopped to show me how you could make the green blade into a whistle.
We whistled our green onions together, in a shrill note I could not hold. She laughed with me.
Adorable? By no means. She was a small fire of thorns. To approach her was to be both burned and scratched.
Maybe she could have been a better mother but she did the best she could with what she had. I learned from her. Sometimes you learn how to do something by seeing how it isn't done.
[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]