Mother's Day 2011

When I was born, I was the girl my parents always wanted, after three boys. My brothers were wary of me, since I was welcomed in such a different way than my predecessors. They were to use me as their human guinea pig for many years to come, and the verdict was, "Yep, she cried. I guess that firecracker between the toe is painful."  My mother was overwhelmed and underpaid, as she was a typical housewife, with four kids to wrangle. We were expected to go to church three times a week, and not bother my mother, or we would get a spanking when my dad got home. If he walked in to us fighting, we were likely to go to bed without eating dinner. The first time I tried a cigarette (and threw up) at the encouragement of my brother, I tried to tell my mother but was hushed quickly, "That must have been a dream, your brother would never do anything like that." I learned that anything I told my mother was likely to get this response, unless it was good news. If I was hurt, or sad, or confused, I was to go to my room and not come out until I "was happy again." I idolized my mother, as she seemed to be able to always be happy, and not let anything or anyone make her upset.  As a child, I wished I could be like her, and always smile, no matter what happened. I began to write when I was 5 or 6, and I would hide my book under my pillow, so that anytime I had a problem, I escaped to my room and wrote, or read, until it went away. My mother used to tell me to "Stop reading and go outside!" but it was the only way that I could be sure that no one would hurt me. I would read for days on end, and it became my escape. The city librarian knew me by name, and became exasperated with me after I had read "everything in the children's section." She sent me upstairs at the ripe old age of 7, where I discovered the much larger world of young adult literature. I was set free in this wonderland, and thus began my adult education. From time to time, my mother would ask me what I was reading, and I almost always lied, since she would not have liked me reading "Goodbye Mr. Chips" at 8 years old. As the years have turned into decades, I have realized that my mother was genuinely doing her best to hold it together for us. As I have grown, and am now also a mother, she and I have come to a certain understanding about our relationship. I do not judge her or hold her accountable for my life's struggles. I thank her for her part in what made me the woman I am today. Though unwittingly, she helped me develop tools for life, and, I am happy to report that I have discovered a certain amount of inner peace. Knowing that hers was born out of the same instinct as mine, self preservation, is somewhat enlightening. There seems to be a very fine line between inner peace and insanity, and while she may have skirted the edge of that gap for some time, I think she and I have found a place where we can both exist in our own form of peace. So Happy Mother's Day, to all of you, and to my mom, who I respect and love with all my heart.