Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mothers and Daughters

She's back!

And as it happens and in spite of myself, I've been doing a lot of thinking about mothers and daughters and loss, no doubt in subconscious preparation for the start of CPE on Monday.

I've talked about this before: after the initial shock of my mother's death, I more or less went on with life. Not my old life, but the one I'd suddenly inherited. I did not dwell on loss or change; those are matters with which adults occupy themselves, and I was seven. I was aware for many years, of course, that I was the only child and then adolescent and then young woman of my acquaintance who did not have a mother, but that was what I knew and I more or less accepted it, moving forward with little curiosity about the woman who had vanished from my life so quickly and so completely.

When I became a mother myself, I was very consciously stunned by the wave of awareness that washed over me. I remember distinctly sitting in my hospital bed one morning when the boys were a couple of days old, staring down at the tiny blonde heads propped on pillows in my arms, and thinking: There was once on this planet someone who loved me like this. I had had no idea that there was such love loose in the universe, and the thought that I had once been its direct object, but for only a brief and barely-remembered period of time, was almost more than I could absorb.

I have been, as a mother, frequently and attentively alert to a sense of gratitude. Not as something to blather on about, and not in times of confusion and despair. But much more of the time than not, in a form of silent awareness. I would glance out int the back yard while three children were constructing something out of nothing, or peer into the sunroom when they were playing a game, and think to myself: You are absolutely enveloped by good fortune. As my children grew, and especially as they passed the ages my younger brother and I had been in 1960, I often thought of my mother and what she had missed. The big events, of course: the recitals and plays, the graduations, the first jobs and, someday, the weddings and babies. But more poignantly, the little moments: all that back yard construction and deconstruction, the sand castles, the late night walks, the hours and hours of reading aloud, the soccer games, the tea parties for cats.

For the past few months, I have longed for my mother as an advisor and counselor, as a source of insight and sagacity. I have depended for most of my life on the support of other girls and women, and have usually had a close circle of female friends, starting with the girls I met when I began boarding school at the age of twelve, but I realized a few weeks ago that, at the moment, the people upon whom I most rely for advice and encouragment are all male. It's an odd situation for me, and I wish my mother were here. Of course, my mother did not live long enough to become the fount of wisdom for whom I long; I have lived nearly twice as long as she did and have far more to share in the way of experience and contemplation thereon than she had the opportunity to gain. But I wish that things were otherwise.

Yesterday the Lovely Daughter and I made the six-and-one-half hour drive home from Chicago. We listened to WICKED, which I have been waiting to share with her -- I knew that as a one-time peformer in and techie for musicals, she would "get" it. And we talked nonstop for the rest of the trip. About seminary and new friends and new dreams (me). About Czech restaurants and roommate challenges and the Gaudi cathedral and senior year and the possibility of future employment related to international study (her). About churches and sermons (me). About Auchswitz (her). I gave her some advice. She gave me some advice. We talked and talked and talked. And talked.

I wish I could be the daughter of a mother.

I LOVE being the mother of a daughter.

12 comments:

Presbyterian Gal said...

In a way, though, you will experience being the daughter of a mother. I know this from now taking care of my mom.

Sounds like you had a spectacular drive home!

The Swandive said...

No words, only love and understanding from one MD to another. What a beautiful post.

Quotidian Grace said...

And the LD is one very fortunate young woman indeed, to have an LM like you!

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

Beautiful.

Lisa :-] said...

My experience is the exact opposite of yours. I was the daughter of a mother for 52 years. Never had a daughter (or any child) of my own.

It's difficult for me to say whether I wish I had a daughter. I've seen child-rearing successes and failures in my time, and I'm too much of a realist to believe without a doubt that my parenting experience would have come down on the successful side.

Enjoy your time with the lovely daughter!

Lovie said...

Oh Robin, what to say? Your post at once broke my heart and made me fall on my knees in gratitude for the life I have had with my 3 daughters. You make me so grateful for all the years I have had with my 3 girls, however challenging some of those years have been.

Pamela said...

I have to agree with lovie. Even though the last couple of years with our daughter have been rough - I am so grateful for her and thankful that we are now seeing some light in the darkness that seemed to enfold us for awhile.

more cows than people said...

this is a shimmering post. thank you.

mompriest said...

I have a different childhood than yours. So while my mother lived she wasn't really a mother for much of my childhood. I have often longed to the daughter of a real mother. I am grateful to be the mother of a daughter (and a son).

lovely reflection. I hope you get a lot out of CPE and have a good group (which makes all the difference). Blessings!

Anonymous said...

Robin, I lost my mom at 24, but truly had she had lost her ability to mother many years before that. Today I have a 14 yr old daughter and I am awed . . . I'm still here for her, as best I can be. I hope to be for some time yet. ap from lip

Kathryn J said...

I am so glad to read, even belatedly, that she is home and that you had such a good visit on the car ride home.

Paul said...

Hey, I'm the son of a mother, and it's not all that great. BTW, I'm a grandfather.