Mother’s Day can mean many things to many people, depending upon their age, the relationship they have or had with their mother, how the family addresses or addressed Mother’s Day, how their mother felt about Mother’s Day, and whether one’s mother is still alive or has passed on. As I reflect on Mother’s Day, I think about how the meaning of it changed for me over time. Sometimes it was a joy to be able to plan a special day with my mother, sometimes it was a burden trying to figure out what gift to give, sometimes it was filled with guilt for making a decision to skip “the day” with my mother because my job had taken me away or I had planned a trip with a partner. But, since my mother’s passing 10 years ago, Mother’s Day has become a time of reflection, love, and celebration about the unique relationship between a mother and child, and more specifically, between my mother and me.
As I grow older, I am seeing more and more of my mother in me. Physically, I can look at my hands, for example, and I see an exact replica of my mother’s hands at a similar age! It’s amazing to me how we can age in a similar way to our parents – so much so that we can literally physically transform into versions of them! Emotionally, I can see myself reacting to things in the same way that my mother did, and often using the exact same words in my responses! Spiritually, I can understand the process, better, behind my mother’s evolution in thought and behavior and feelings over time, because I find myself taking that same journey in my heart and mind. Some things that use to bother me, no longer bother me – some things that never use to bother me, bother me now.
Having no children of my own, I don’t know exactly what it feels like to be a mother from that perspective, but I certainly know what it feels like to be the daughter of a mother. And that experience has often left me wondering just what was my mother thinking about regarding her relationship with her own mother, in the daily privacy of her own thoughts as she aged, and how did those thoughts affect her outlook and feelings and happiness and regrets as she aged? And how often did she see me do something or hear me say something that brought back reflections from her own past – resulting in feelings of happiness or feelings of regret? I know that my mother never felt worthy enough as a daughter, believing that she should have remained home (in England) to care for her mother later in life (my mother married an American and moved to the US many years earlier). My mother’s two younger brothers also moved to other countries earlier in life, and so, when my grandmother passed away, she did not have her family with her (her husband, my grandfather, having died 30 years earlier). Like so many other women, my mother internalized guilt and responsibility for not being present for her mother (ironically, my grandmother was Maltese and had also married a foreigner and left home to live in his country, England), and she carried that guilt with her throughout the remainder of her entire adult life. I know that this had to have impacted her outlook on aging, on parenting, on familial relationships, and so many other things – none of which I had a full appreciation for at the time. But now, these are feelings and perspectives I can identify with, as well. I, too, have often felt unworthy as a daughter for all those times I could not be with my mother when she may have needed me to be. These are the moments we reflect upon when the person we love is no longer with us in life. Suddenly, the experiences one could not see before, begin to emerge and take on new meaning as we reflect on them. I suspect it is the natural cycle of life. We begin to understand our mothers better when they are no longer with us, because their absence causes us to pay more attention to the details that we failed to take the time to look at or appreciate when they were available to us.
I miss my mother…….deeply……. Though we had our differences, we were also very much alike. In fact, I think it was our similarities that caused us the most conflict. We saw in each other the things we admired, but also the things we feared, and we did not realize that what we were trying to change or influence or control in the other, were the very things we needed to work on and transform within ourselves.
Mothers are human……they are the products of their own childhoods and life experiences, and they are affected by their own relationships with their own mothers. I’ve come to appreciate all the wisdom my mother accumulated in her lifetime and shared (acquired from having grown up during the Depression, to enduring evacuations and bombings during WWII, to losing a father during wartime, to learning to live in a new country, to witnessing the atrocities of segregation in the Southern US where she lived many years), and I admire her strength of character as, despite her own feelings of a lack of self-worth, was always focused on making sure that others were happy and valued and taken care of. She loved color and beauty and music and life and wanted always to share that perspective and experience with others. Seeing what the world and US has become in the time that she has been gone, only emphasizes for me more strongly how very important it is to have people like her in the world – we need more color and beauty and music and life right now!
Whatever your relationship with your mother, if she is still with you in life, please be sure to honor her on Mother’s Day. There is so much more to her story than you may be aware of! If, like me, your mother is no longer with you, I am certain she already feels your love and hears your thoughts and empathizes with whatever you may be thinking and feeling about your relationship you had with her, because she was also there once, too. If you remember her, and can reflect on your life with her, and the life she experienced, and the experiences of the lives of the mothers before her, then you have honored her already!
Wishing everyone a very Happy Mother’s Day!