The secret mothers
We never spoke of our mothers,
She was the one taboo subject, never mentioned.
Through a fear that her name would unravel our appearance in our burgeoning lives.
We were kids, our larval adults and we were ashamed.
Our lives at that time were filled with bluster, built on bravado and to make mention of your mother
was to confess to who combed your hair that morning and where you got that spanking, shiny, new pair of shoes.
To mention her name was to confess to having your face buffed clean with noting but spit, love and a dirty tissue.
To manifest her into a world outside your home was to invite embarrassment and a perception, however true, that there was very little in this world you could do alone.
We were a proud bunch, unwilling to admit that she was your manager, your boss your worker. your confidant, your provider, the object of your tantrums and your nurse.
And through all that you had to keep her in her place, because she was yours because you needed her to be that for you as your world was becoming a hard, overwhelming, exhilarating terrifying place...And she was home.
She was your sanctuary.
She had to remain pure, separate from the outside.
So we never spoke of her.
And she knew.
And when we grew our own legs and sprouted our wings and made the first of our own, many mistakes, we came to realize this.
Freed from our own self obsessed myopic state of adolescence, we began to see her differently; we began to see the flaws in her deity. We saw a woman, once a girl, who made mistakes and wildly improvised things that seemed so assured at the time. She cried, she hissed, she laughed, she screamed, she drank, she smoked, she felt, she faltered, and sometimes she wanted to leave.
She was human and when that dawns on us, when we finally push past her shadow we think that we finally understand her.
Then the unthinkable happens.
We reach the age she was when she birthed us. Or we buy a house. We get married. We get divorced. Or we have kids of our own. Whichever. Whatever. Something happens that puts us directly in her footsteps and in that moment we realize how little she knew, how hard it all must have seemed and how someone who in your eyes epitomized being an adult at the time, was nothing but a child herself.
For most of us, she's still with us when we come to these realizations, cackling over our shoulders and pointing fingers at us; roaring with joy and rightfully gloating at the horror of your epiphany and the final absolution of your discovery: that she tried.
Sometimes because she had to. Sometimes because she wanted. Sometimes not to the best of her abilities. Sometimes beyond them. Yet she always did and lived with the consequence.
She still does.
Yet my friends, i still don't speak of our mothers.
Johnathan's mother was an insurance sales woman, the first in her office. It was one of the proudest days in her life. she was beautiful and her husband never thought he was good enough for her so he would drink and call her terrible things. She left him in the end because she agreed with him...She was too beautiful for him.
Katie's mother didn't want what she had and left her daughter in her shadow.
Katie never knew what a mother really was, having never experienced it, so when she in turn had a child, Katie invented her own version and it had nothing to do with motherhood, or being a mother, as she didn't know what that was.
She just tried to fill her child with herself, what she knew and hoped would be enough.
When Katie met her mother again years later, the mother commented on what a good job Katie had done.
It meant the world to Katie. She didn't know why.
My mother was a nurse, like i am now, and like she is again. She wanted alot from the world. She met my father. They fell in love. They changed each others course. She had a son. Then awhile later, she had another.
Despite her moods and her needs, she loved them both. She suppressed parts of herself to be a better mother.
Sometimes, I know, she thinks she failed. When happy she is warm. When not she is an iceberg. When angry she could make the ground shudder with her mighty stomping heels and the power of her silence.
Into her late forties, while reading, she would suck her thumb.
When dancing she ALWAYS sings along to the song playing.
In my early twenties, when sick, she had to drag me from the shower as i couldn't move.
Fevered, naked and wet, my mother dragging me across a tiled floor; i felt like i had just been born. I felt like jesus just been taken down from the cross.
Eight years ago she discovered the dead body of my older brother, her first born son in his room. She was alone. She has never spoken of it.
Only mothers can even imagine what that must feel like.
Not fathers, not friends, not brothers. No one. It is a weight that i can only imagine. It is a burden that cant be measured. Yet she continues, sometimes because she has to, sometimes because she wants to. Sometimes not to the best of her abilities, sometimes beyond them.
A deity. Cracked.
And through all those cracks we can see what lies beneath.
We never spoke of our mothers.
We didn't know any better.
copyright © Richard Adams 2010