A few days ago, January 23rd, was my mother’s birthday. I cannot tell you how old she is because she would; a. kill me, and b. I’d be dead so moot point. Actually, I kind of forget how old she is, maybe b/c I’m getting older, but probably more because she defies age with her youthful spirit, incredible energy and continual pursuit of educating herself and others. She is unselfish to a fault and incredulously loving and caring to all, especially her children and her grandchildren.
I am always holding her in my mind as an shining ideal of what a person should be like and how I should strive to be. Yet I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I fall short. I take naps, I don’t finish everything I start and sometimes I just want to sit around and do nothing. So, up until the last 3 years or so this has been like a dark cloud, this impossible ideal that she represents, and as I reinvent my life, I accept myself and my nap taking, Netflix watching, just “being” self. This acceptance really has been a springboard for growth in a relationship of two related, yet very different people, accepting each other just as we both are. I love this! Who would have thunk? My mom is my friend. All I had to do was drop my armor a bit and of course go through years of therapy. No joke.
I think we all struggle on some level in our relationships with our mothers. They are the ones through which we came to be, the channel to our birth as humans. Much of my struggle has been that I identify so much of myself in my mother, and well, I liked to deny it. Despite our differences in thinking, I look like her, sit like her, my mannerisms are hers, my habit of choosing my mind over my heart-hers, task driven-her, and somehow now have a faith like she does. Hey, not all bad! Life moves so quickly and at some point all that will be left is our memories of each other and that damned genetic code that sprouted and grew like and acorn gone mad so what the mannerisms and such. I got the faith!
My mother, myself and my brother, would often go for walks on trails in the woods. My mom is somewhat of a naturalist, self educated and otherwise, and one of her jobs when I was in grade school was leading walks on trails at a local nature center. Taking a walk with mom was like going to the museum combined with running on the treadmill, combined with reading the encyclopedia. A whole lot of information was gifted upon me while I was exercising. I didn’t know it then. I do now. In a big wide open, grateful way. Sometimes, when I’m out in nature, to which I return often, with my children, or running trails in the woods, the name of something I see will suddenly burst forth into my mind. It’s a Larch tree! Or a showy lady slipper! Or Sassafras and Witch Hazel. I learned to appreciate these glories, even if I was a grumpy bear then.
She tried to get me to cross country ski. And I did learn, begrudgingly, and mostly, my brother and I wandered off course in pursuit of any sort of large-ish hill that might give us an actual thrill. That was then and any sort of hill seeking skiing now would put me at high risk for permanent disability. She still skis like a maniac and I’d be sweating bullets to keep up with her. No lie. So I run instead of ski. In the woods on the back roads to visit the trees with their vein like branches outlined in the winter sky, working downwards to the sturdier branches, gnarly trunk and spreading roots. All speak to me of these graces bestowed. Mom taught me to look. I never would have known to be grateful for this simple beauty if not for her and, I cannot believe I am not sneering at myself with that irritated sense of wanting to just be done, the product not the process.
Sometimes she comes to visit. Well more than sometimes, often. She needs help coming in. Not because of any age, or inability, but because she is weighted down with items. Like raspberries and blueberries, pineapple and watermelon, which is perfect because otherwise my kids might have scurvy. Odds and ends she knows I might need like batteries and lightbulbs, and sometimes toilet paper. I used to take offense. As if!!! I couldn’t take care of my children and myself??? Now I’m just very “Thanks Mom.”. I love you Mom. I hope I can do half the job you’ve done. Happy Birthday, a few days late. I started this on your birthday, but got distracted napping and watching Netflix.