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 8, 2011

Mother's Day 2011

Mama in Boulder, sometime in the 1980s
I realized, when I starting thinking about my usual Sunday post, that this is the third Mother's Day since I began this blog. In the beginning, I wrote a lot of posts about my parents, and this one is my favorite about her, which is simply entitled "My Mama." Everyone has one (a mother, I mean), even if she is no longer here, and that's what I've been thinking about. Sometimes on Saturday evenings, or during the night when I wake, I think about writing this post. It's usually something on my mind that I give myself permission to explore, and this Mother's Day it seems to be about the experience -- of having one, and of being one.

Just because your mother has died, it doesn't mean you don't have one. The experience of being mothered is deeply ingrained within us. I suppose some people who are raised in an orphanage or somehow separated from their natural mother might be an exception, but we are born into this world as tiny, helpless little creatures. It's true throughout the natural world. Last year I watched an eagle cam and peered into the nest at a loving set of parents feeding their infant chick, whose cries were answered by those doting birds. It aroused a deep emotion within me, and I cared for that infant and watched obsessively to make sure he was well taken care of. I know that my experience of having been cared for like that, caressed, fed, diapered, worried over, helped to shape me into the person I am today. Just because my mother is gone from this earth does not stop me from having had a loving mother and still benefiting from her love for me.

I was the oldest, and Mama was only nineteen when I was born; I was only nineteen when my son Chris was born, so Mama was a grandmother at what seems to me the incredibly young age of 38. She was still having children of her own then, and one of my sisters and my son were born only two months apart. That was a really long time ago now, and next year I will be the age Mama was when she died at 69. She seemed really young, and now that I am in her age ballpark, I know for a fact that she was both young but also lived a complete life. She was a widow with six grown children and lots of grandchildren when she died, and she is still missed and remembered with love by all of us. Two of my siblings changed their Facebook profiles in the last week to pictures of Mama. I thought about doing the same thing, but I have the luxury of this blog that gives me another outlet for this day. Happy Mother's Day, Mama, wherever you are.

And just because my two sons are no longer here does not mean that Mother's Day does not apply to me as well. Stephen died after only having been on this planet for thirteen months, and it was in the early 1960s, so long ago that the memory of him is lost to me. The pain that I bore for so many years is now gone, too. Today, I can rejoice in my beautiful grandniece Lexie and other small children. That was not the case for many years; I turned away from any infant because the pain was so intense. Now when I think back, the memory of that pain is like a scar on my heart. I can feel it was there, but it's healed over and has become a part of who I am today. It no longer hurts, but when I feel the edges of that scar with my mind, I can easily recall those years.

Even the more recent of my losses, my son Chris, is no longer so painful, but it's only been nine years ago that he died, so that emotional scar is still red and hurting. But today when I think of Chris, I remember his laugh; it was so uniquely his own that its sound comes to me across the depths of time. Just because your children are gone, you are still a mother. Everyone's child, if they are fortunate, grows up and away from their parents anyway. Things just never stay the same.

The nature of life is change, and the older I grow, the more I realize that trying to hold onto any moment in time is fruitless. We are both blessed and cursed by our memories, but I would never willingly give up mine. It's true that they may not be not the same events that actually occurred in the past, as they have been changed by my ability to recall them through the lens of my faulty memory. My mother's faults have fallen away and I remember her only with love and tenderness. Even when I recall something she did that gave me grief in the past, now I smile and wonder why it was such a big deal back then.

This is actually a gift, I realize now. Memories are not cast in stone and unchanging, just as all life is amorphous and unpredictable. We just have to ride the waves and remember the good times.


Teresa Evangeline said...

"My mother's faults have fallen away and I remember only with love and tenderness."


Happy Mother's Day, DJan.

CiCi said...

Hubby and I have been watching eagle cam in Iowa. We watched all three eaglets crack out. This is a great experience.

This is a great picture of your mom. She looks relaxed. You are so right, just because your mom is gone from this earth does not mean she isn't with you.

I particularly like your very last sentence.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Lovely thoughts. I see a strong resemblance between you and your mother. I don't know how active she was, but she looks ready to climb those mountains. I'm sorry that motherhood brought you so much grief but glad that you are able to remember Chris's laughter. Have a beautiful Mother's Day.

Linda Reeder said...

Having read your earlier posts, I am aware of the tragedy you've experienced in motherhood, and I'm happy for you that you have come to a place where the pain is manageable. Happy Mother's Day, DJan. You are an amazing and inspirational person.

Gigi said...

You inspire me in so many ways. Your strength and your spirit is admirable. Happy Mother's Day, DJan.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Happy Mother's Day DJan..I hope you have a peaceful day..once a Mom always a Mom:)

Anonymous said...

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, DJAN!!! You are fortunate to have those memories. Many women have had no children at all, and many have no recollection of their mothers.

justme_alive said...

Happy mother's.day

Red said...

Enjoyed your post. Yes, our memory is altered through time. Reflection on the past changes things. As you say some things are so long ago that they fade to some extent.
For you, mothers day is a heavy. You deal with it openly and for that I hope you gain strength to continue.
My Mom died at age 59. We were young enough to think that she was old. Then I started to worry if I would outlive her. Now I look back and think how incredidbly young she was when she died.

Arkansas Patti said...

I also was touched by your statement of how passing dims any faults and lets the positives shine through. For the life of me, I can not remember any negatives about my Mom.
Lovely post.

Trish said...

You write so beautifully and from the heart, DJan, about what it means to be human. Hope your day was wonderful!

Linda Myers said...

I was not close to my mother and finding the right Mother's Day card was always a challenge, as I wanted it to be truthful. During the last few years of her life, as her memory dimmed, she was easier to be with, as she appeared to have forgotten all the things about me she didn't like! I am learning to replace the disappointment with compassion, as I learn about the circumstances of her life. I was lucky to have a lovely, loving mother-in-law who taught me how to nurture my own children. And I'm coming to see that my mother was the one I was supposed to have.

#1Nana said...

I haven't gotten to the point that my mother's faults have fallen away, but she's only been gone for three years. As I get older I am becoming more tolerant of her failings, perhaps because I am more aware of my own.

Mother's Day is for all of us who have loved a child. I hope you had a happy one.

Bragger said...

I find I am becoming more and more tolerant of my mother as she approaches 80 years old. Not COMPLETELY tolerant, mind you, but at least a little more.

I do look at her in wonder and ask how in the world you ever recover from burying a child. I don't know how in the world you survived burying two. It is unfathomable to me. Thank you for your words of wisdom!

Sally Wessely said...

You wisdom shine through yet again. I am struck by several things in this post. First, you look a great deal like your mother. I see much of you in her. Secondly, I am struck by the grace that you extend to your mother. I have not yet come to the place where I can say that my "mother's faults have fallen away." I am working on getting there. You give me hope in knowing that someday, I will remember her only with love and tenderness. Finally, you give me great hope in the area of moving forward after the loss of a child.

You are an amazing woman, a role model for all of us. Keep on writing.

Stella Jones said...

Mothers' Day must be hard for you D-Jan. I find it hard in that my mother has died (in 1992) and I still miss her company. Same with fathers' day (my dad died in 1991). Isn't it interesting that time blurs the edges of the bad memories and enhances the memories of the good ones.

gayle said...

You have such a wonderful way of expressing yourself through your words!! My mom passed away when she was 38 and I was 15 years old. Still to this day I miss her! You are right though that the pain is not as bad. I just wish there was some way that I could remember more!

Donna B. said...

What a beautiful, touching, poignant post. I marvel at your strength, insight and fortitude. I am sitting here with a smile on my face, my eyes glistening...

Whitney Lee said...

I think those early days, though the child doesn't remember them, are very important. As I rock Connor before bed each night I so hope that he knows how much I love him, that his cells are absorbing my love through osmosis. I did the same with Jordan. I also keep little journals for each of them. I am honest in them, taking responsibility for my flaws and foibles, my fears and my doubts, but also my deep love. My hope is that someday they will be able to turn the pages and see just how much I loved them as well as being able to read about all of their little milestones or silly words or moments of hilarity. I guess part of my hope is that, if I should somehow exit their lives before they have families of their own, these books will serve as a place for them to find answers to the questions they would ask if I were there to answer.

You are so right, once having had a mother she is always there, and once having been a mother you are forever one. It's nice to know that those great scars heal a bit with time and that the joys can be remembered.

Every day I strive to be more in the moment, to enjoy what is happening in the here and now. I do my best to capture memories with my words and photos because I know that time flies. This was a beautiful post.

Friko said...

I should have come here last Sunday but now that I have finally got here I would like to say that this post speaks of a wisdom, understanding, a peaceful heart.

Hold on to your memories, they are worth preserving.