I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mothers and mothering

Me, Mama, Norma Jean
Looking through my old family photographs for just the right one to share for this Mother's Day, I realized that this one would fit the bill perfectly. Not only is my own mother looking very beautiful and lovely, but her children are also mothers today. Norma Jean is already practicing for that role.

Mama went on to have five more children, all of whom are indelibly engraved into my soul. My siblings. This is the first year that I will celebrate Mother's Day without my sister PJ. Mama also had one infant who died within a few days of birth because of being born two months prematurely. She was named Tina Maria and is the only one of my siblings that I didn't get to know. Mama gave birth to six girls and one boy during her lifetime. I was the first, the oldest in a twenty-year span of birthing children. She was 19 when I was born and 39 when she gave birth to Fia. Mama would live another thirty years and die when she was a young 69 years old. That was in 1993, and I still miss her presence in my life.

In my mementos drawer, I have a card she sent me one year that for some reason resonated more than others she sent. It has a simple message: "I love you." Underneath those words, in her handwriting, she wrote "I really do, you know." She sent it because I didn't always believe that she did really love me. Her youngest daughter, Fia, was her favorite and the apple of her eye, while I was the oldest, gone from the household long before Fia was born, and I was jealous of their relationship. When I would visit, it was very apparent that their bond was stronger than what I felt I had experienced with Mama.

Every family has its own dynamic; ours came about because my parents had three children in seven years and then stopped. Then, when I was sixteen, my brother Buz was born, and Mama gave birth to three more children in three years. Tina Maria was born after Buz, and then Mama had Markee and Fia, the last of her babies. Fia is now a grandmother herself. We are scattered now, but every few years we get together again. In February of this year we gathered to celebrate PJ's life of 63 years and to bid farewell to our sister.

Time has softened my memories of Mama, but there are moments when she is as present to me as if I could reach out and touch her face. Not long ago I had a dream in which she was convulsed with laughter (I don't remember about what now), but I woke up laughing, a huge smile across my face. It was a memory I cherish, even though she's been gone for more than twenty years, she sure didn't seem very far away just a few months back. Time is linear, but my memories are eternally preserved in my psyche. It's nice to know that I can still make new memories with those I hold dear in my heart.

My own two beautiful babies are also gone from this earth, but they are still not far from me. Unfortunately I don't get to choose when they will visit me in my dreams. It's been so long since Stephen died, fifty years now, that he doesn't appear very often. But Chris visits me regularly. Once you've become a mother, you don't need to worry about that status being taken away just because your children have moved on. You are forever marked as a mother. I had to come to grips with that fact, because when Chris died, I felt as though I was no longer allowed to have that title. But it's just not true: once a mother, always a mother.
Chris and me
This morning, as I sit here with my laptop and the birdsong pours through the window at first light, I think of mothers everywhere who are thinking of their children. And since we all have mothers or we wouldn't be here, many of us are also thinking of our moms and celebrating our connection. I wish you the very best of days, and may those whose mothers have passed on be blessed today with a reminder of the one who carried her child under her heart.

20 comments:

Teri said...

Happy Mother's Day, Jan.

CiCi said...

How could your mother status ever be removed? From the moment child(ren) brand us as mom, no matter how they are delivered into our lives, we can hold firm to the name MOM. Lovely post, DJan. Happy Mother's Day, dear friend.

Linda Reeder said...

You've made me teary eyes as I start my Mother's Day morning, DJan. such a lovely post.
Never one to want to be the center of attention, I will celebrate the day by being the Mom and giving to my kids and grandkids. With just two of each, it's easy to keep track of them, and I am blessed to have all of them nearby. I hope they feel just a little blessed to have me near them too.
It he grands were here yesterday while Jill was off on a Mountaineering training. she is an instructor and really appreciates the opportunity to have a "day off".
We'll all gather here in time to watch the Sounders match on TV and then there will be ribs for dinner and rhubarb cake for dessert. Just the six of us. Family time. My gift to myself.
Have a wonderful day, DJan, full of memories and a walk in the sun.

gigihawaii said...

Happy Mother's Day, DJan. Yes, we are both mothers.

Star said...

Beautiful pictures D-Jan and I agree with you that although you can't see them physically, they are just so alive in your mind. Dreams can be wonderful can't they. They allow us to live in some other world - sometimes where we want to be and at other times, in a distressing place. Happy Mother's Day (ours is in March)and keep those memories alive.

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

What a lovely post. And the photo of Chris and you is gorgeous. I like the fact that your sons and your mother visit you in dreams. My mother died in 1980 but still sometimes is a presence, just out of sight, in a dream. And what you said here is just what I said to Deb about two minutes ago: you are a mother forever.

Elephant's Child said...

Heartfelt hugs.

Rian said...

Wonderful post, DJan. I too love that picture of you and Chris. And my mom, dad, brother, and sister also visit me in my dreams. I consider it *a gift*...

Gigi said...

Happy Mother's Day, DJan. What beautiful photos! And, as always, a beautiful post.

Linda Myers said...

Happy Mother's Day, DJan.

My mother visits me from time to time when I sleep.

Arkansas Patti said...

Just a beautiful post Djan. Aren't those dream visits the best? I was lucky enough to have had two mothers. This is such a special day.

Red said...

You weave together your mother and your experience of being a mother. It's nice to see the comparisons. My Mom died in 73. Many things were going on in my life and I have not reflected on her as much as I should have.

Friko said...

A lovely post for mother’s day and lovely, comforting thoughts to go with it.

As the years go by we come to resemble our mothers and any uncertainties about our relationships become mellow.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Lovely thoughts on Mother's Day. Happy Mother's Day to you!
Very true that we are all here because of a mother. Some are just better at mothering than others.
I think being the oldest is the hardest spot. I was never the favorite...possibly because I was always questioning and quite stubborn with an opinion in a time when children were seen and not heard. :)

Dee said...

Dear DJan, this is truly a lovely posting. For me, it is one of the best you have ever written. The following line is what I've tried to expression, unsuccessfully, many times. But you nailed it: "Time is linear, but my memories are eternally preserved in my psyche." Thank you for those words.

I've never had the privilege of being a biological mother, but I have been gifted by friends with the opportunity to "mother" their children. And I am so grateful for that.

And of course, I am so grateful for my own mother. She was and is the greatest blessing in my life. She died at age 58 in 1968, but as you say, she is forever" preserved in my psyche." Peace.

amanda | wildly simple said...

Happy Mother's Day, DJan.
(Although I'm sorry I wasn't able to get on the computer yesterday to tell you.)
A beautiful post and photos, both of them. I absolutely love the photo of you and your son, Chris. It speaks of love & warmth & bondedness. I'm so glad you have those feelings to carry in your heart today & always.

Rita said...

Lovely thoughts and great pictures! Once a mother--how true. I am here late, but Happy Mother's Day!!
:):)

Retired English Teacher said...

Thank you for this beautiful reflective post. Yes, once a mother, always a mother. Motherhood can't be taken away from you. Julie visits me in my dreams also. What a comfort.

The photo of you and Chris is a treasure. Hugs.

troutbirder said...

I found this post somewhat reassuring and shared it with my spouse. It's been fifteen years since our eldest son died from the effects of bi polar. There was undeserved guilt for a long time as she often said "BUT I'm his mother. It too a long time to get past that but now she is his mother and the memories are good...:)

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, You sure have a way with words. A touching story indeed. Have you written any books? You just seem to have a natural talent for writing. Thanks for sharing. John