The Things We Remember

My husband and I were in the car driving, listening to the radio, when Mozart’ s Serenade 13 in G Major (Eine kleine Nachtmusik) came on the radio. In case you are not familiar, here it is.

My mother immediately came to mind. I could picture her at the ironing board, her glass Pepsi bottle with the sprinkler top on the ironing board, as she ironed my father’s shirts. When she was ironing she always had music on. This was my introduction to Mozart. I am able to hum along with every piece that was on that album. Her other favorite was Harry Belafonte. The album cover was red with a photo of Harry Belafonte on the cover. Day-O was a favorite, but Jamaica Farewell was the song she sang with. My mother did not have a singing voice, this was no secret in our family, she could hold a tune, but her voice was not strong. But when she was at the ironing board and Jamaica Farewell came on she didn’t care. Not only did she sing, she danced as she ironed. It was more swaying with the music as she sang, sprinkling the shirts to wet them and then pressing the iron to them, gliding it across. All to the calming beat of Jamaica Farewell.

Music is so often tied to our memories, we hear a song that takes us back to where we were in life at the time. It surprised me at how vivid this memory was, how my association with these songs allowed me to conjure up an image so clear in my mind some close to 50 years later. I smiled remembering those ironing moments, when my mother, not one to reveal much of herself, or to let her guard down, was able to do so behind her ironing board with iron in hand. To come out of herself a bit, and perhaps that is why I remember it so strongly. It was unlike her to be so uninhibited.

As my husband and I continued to drive, I looked up Jamaica Farewell on my phone and played it out loud. I still knew every word.

Mother

1960mom

Looking for a mother’s day card I came across this one and laughed out loud. I knew I couldn’t send it to my mother, but I sent a photo of it to my BFF who I knew would laugh.

This was my mother… I can hear her voice saying those words, minus the “rats ass” part (she was not one to use foul language) but the gentle encouragement was spot on. Nothing gentle about it, and no encouragement. The following post was written in response to a Daily Prompt a few years ago, and seeing as it is Mother’s Day I will share it again.

I read through many of the posts on the Daily Prompt page before sitting down to write a response, as I was curious if they would all be positive. Most were, but I did find a few that weren’t, so I felt better I would not be alone.

I did not have a mother or a relationship with my mother like those my friends had. Their mothers loved them unconditionally, built up their confidence, hugged and kissed them for no reason other than they wanted to show their love. Their mothers encouraged them, helped them to rise up to meet a challenge and stood by them as they climbed the mountain to reach it. They gave them guidance, listened to what they had to say, offered feedback with understanding.

If you were to ask my two sisters what their experience with my mother was, they might list all of the above. But not me. I was cut from a different cloth, more like my father, with his traits, which maybe was the first problem. She was never able to understand who I was, so different from her. I was sensitive, easy to cry, easily overcome with emotion if I couldn’t “get” something, which was always met with a response of stop being so dramatic, or get over it. I grew up hearing “you can’t” a lot, “what’s wrong with you” which only served to continually undermine my lack of confidence and self esteem. The answer was most often a resounding no when I wanted to try something new. Her own fears getting in the way of allowing me to grow. In school I was on my own, I longed for the mother who was interested in what her child was doing for homework, who helped with projects. I was not a “self starter” like my sister, who didn’t seem to need the “extra” something, the encouragement, she did just fine on her own.

My mother was great at pointing out the faults, never the positive in something that I accomplished. The focus was always on what was or had been, forever ingrained in her mind, never how I had improved or how far I had come. It was impossible for her to give me the compliment.

My BFF pointed out once that she thought my mother never really “got me”, never really understood who I was, nor cared to. I was different from her, so therefore I was wrong. She wasn’t emotional, wasn’t an emotional person, therefore how could her daughter be? She was pragmatic, so how could her daughter not be?

It wasn’t until I was in my 40’s that I finally came to terms with the fact that I would never hear from her that she was proud of me, never hear that she thought I had “done good,” that she loved me. You may ask why does that matter if I know I have accomplished things despite her lack of encouragement.  It matters. Maybe it is a built in preconceived notion or emotion that makes us seek approval from our parents, maybe it is the lack of that approval that makes us keep wanting it more. I spent a lifetime attempting to have her see me through positive eyes, to just once have her encourage me rather than say no, or don’t bother, or why would you want to do that? I realized it was never going to happen and it was time to just accept it.

There are different ways to accept something we have no control over changing. Accept it and continue on in the relationship with a different expectation, knowing you will never get what you need, or accept it and close the door on it. I chose to close the door. I chose to no longer bear the brunt of her negativity, her inability to give me what I needed emotionally. I needed to step away. I call her now and then, months can go by when I realize I haven’t even thought about her. Though her world has been shrouded in dementia for many years now, somehow she still manages to get in a dig or say something hurtful when I do call. I just laugh to myself when it happens, confirmation as to why I haven’t called in months and won’t call again for months.

She took care of what needed to be taken care of as I grew up, doctors appointments, braces for my teeth, clothes on my back, but I can never remember hearing I love you, or having her there for me when I was going through something challenging. Sometimes the clothes on your back are just not enough.

Dear Mom

Daily Prompt: Write a letter to your mom. Tell her something you’ve always wanted to say, but haven’t been able to. 

I read through many of the posts on the Daily Prompt page before sitting down to write a response, as I was curious if they would all be positive. Most were, but I did find a few that weren’t, so I felt better I would not be alone.

I did not have a mother or a relationship with my mother like those my friends had. Their mothers loved them unconditionally, built up their confidence, hugged and kissed them for no reason other than they wanted to show their love. Their mothers encouraged them, helped them to rise up to meet a challenge and stood by them as they climbed the mountain to reach it. They gave them guidance, listened to what they had to say, offered feedback with understanding.

If you were to ask my two sisters what their experience with my mother was, they might list all of the above. But not me. I was cut from a different cloth, more like my father, with his traits, which maybe was the first problem. She was never able to understand who I was, so different from her. I was sensitive, easy to cry, easily overcome with emotion if I couldn’t “get” something, which was always met with a response of stop being so dramatic, or get over it. I grew up hearing “you can’t” a lot, “what’s wrong with you” which only served to continually undermine my lack of confidence and self esteem. The answer was most often a resounding no when I wanted to try something new. Her own fears getting in the way of allowing me to grow. In school I was on my own, I longed for the mother who was interested in what her child was doing for homework, who helped with projects. I was not a “self starter” like my sister, who didn’t seem to need the “extra” something, the encouragement, she did just fine on her own.

My mother was great at pointing out the faults, never the positive in something that I accomplished. I learned to play piano, was a good sight reader but all I heard from her was that I was “banging.” I became a proficient cook and baker as an adult, but she was always quick to remind everyone at a dinner party that all I used to make were cookies that came out flat, instead of saying first how great the dinner was and how far I had come; the focus was always on what was or had been, forever ingrained in her mind. It was impossible for her to give me the compliment.

My BFF pointed out once that she thought my mother never really “got me” Never really understood who I was, nor cared to. I was different from her, so therefore I was wrong. She wasn’t emotional, wasn’t an emotional person, therefore how could her daughter be? She was pragmatic, so how could her daughter not be?

It wasn’t until I was in my 40’s that I finally came to terms with the fact that I would never hear from her that she was proud of me, never hear that she thought I had “done good,” that she loved me. You may ask why does that matter if I know I have accomplished things despite her lack of encouragement.  It matters. Maybe it is a built in preconceived notion or emotion that makes us seek approval from our parents, maybe it is the lack of that approval that makes us keep wanting it more. I spent a lifetime attempting to have her see me through positive eyes, to just once have her encourage me rather than say no, or don’t bother, or why would you want to do that? I realized it was never going to happen and it was time to just accept it.

There are different ways to accept something we have no control over changing. Accept it and continue on in the relationship with a different expectation, knowing you will never get what you need, or accept it and close the door on it. I chose to close the door. I chose to no longer bear the brunt of her negativity, her inability to give me what I needed emotionally. I needed to step away.

She took care of what needed to be taken care of as I grew up, doctors appointments, braces for my teeth, clothes on my back, but I can never remember hearing I love you, or having her there for me when I was going through something challenging. Sometimes the clothes on your back are just not enough.1960mom

Happy I’m Not A Mother Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all my fellow bloggers who chose to become Mothers.

This was my post last Mother’s Day, which I am posting again this year.

My BFF and I both chose not to have children, and re dubbed Mother’s Day “Happy I’m Not A Mother Day” years ago. We both married in our 30’s, and had no burning desire (no desire at all really) to have children. No “biological urge.” I didn’t feel my life would be less without children in it. I knew myself well enough to know I really was not cut out to have children. Years ago when I told people I had no intention of having children, my choice was met with many reactions:

“But you’d be such a good mother.”

“Really? What’s wrong with you?”

“You’ll come around.”

“You’ll regret it when you are old.”

I was always amazed they showed a total lack of understanding or respect for the choice I made. I would never have thought of telling them what I really thought of some of the choices they had made in their lives that I might not have agreed with. When it came to making the choice about having children it was as if there was only one choice. To have them. The societal norm I guess. I am often asked how many children I have when meeting someone new. After responding with “none” and being met with looks of pity and “oh sorry”- I have learned to follow up with I  “opted out.” I’m not sorry, you don’t need to be sorry.

I am glad for my friends who have  found meaning and fulfillment in their lives by having children, good for them. But it would not have been good for me. My step daughter was 8 when she came into my life. We spoke on the phone everyday, saw each other every other weekend and one night during the week. Perfect. Just enough to get my nurturing out, and just enough before I was on my last nerve. I love my step daughter’s children, grandchildren to me, who I delight in spending time with.  I am close with my nieces and nephews, it is important to me to be part of their lives, and for them to know how much I care about them. I love spending time with the children of my friends, and all of these relationships combined are just right for me. Am I less of a person because I am not a mother? I don’t think so. Is my life incomplete? Not at all. Having children is rewarding, fulfilling, meaningful for many, but not for everybody.