The most memorable moment in my life as a teenager was the day I snooped through my Mother’s dresser drawer and found a dingy white baby book, the cover read Our First Baby. Eagerly, I opened it up and found it was for my birth.
Written on the introduction page was my name, and my parents name. The pages were scant, lacking detail other than the names of the grandparents and date of birth. Typical, I thought, for my mother, a women of few words. And that was a source of contention between the two us – me being a girl of many words, writing my first mini novel at age 12. I had hoped for something…any written record or hint as to who she was – a girl of 19 having a baby. Finally, near the back of the book in a note section was a paragraph she jotted down while she was still pregnant. I read the few sentences over and over – (as if they might sprout and make more words when watered with tears…)
She wrote about how wonderful it was to have a baby growing inside of her, how she felt movement…it made her joyful. Those few sentiments did grow – inside of me. To have evidence – some tangible proof that you were wanted, loved even before anyone set eyes on you…before you were known to the world. When God states that He knew Jeremiah (1:5) before he formed him in his mother’s womb – there tends to be a sense in which we all desire to be known. It was a divine secret – just between Mom and I.
It impacted me so much that early in my marriage – before I had children of my own – I wrote a tribute to my mom called My Mother, Myself. Dennis Rainey published portions of it in his book The Tribute. I gave it to her just months before her sudden, unexpected death at 49. In it, I reflected on how unfairly I had treated her. It read in part:
As a married woman, I understand my mother more all the time. For in almost every action, both good and bad, I see where I am much like her. I hope I have the good natured concern for others that she had. I wish I could meet my husband’s needs the way she did dads by having dinner on the table every night at 5. I hope I will be waiting for my children each afternoon when they get home from school, the way she did.
I understand now some of my mother’s frustrations with her family. Trying to comprehend the needs and wants of a strong-willed daughter is something I pray I never face. But if I do, it would serve me right.
I feel my mother’s hurts too. They say that unresolved pain, resentment, regrets are carried down from generation to generation. Now that I am married I have begun to see her side of the story and I am ashamed at the guilt I must have heaped upon her when I reminded her of how perfect my father was and how deficient she was…and yes, I was THAT kind of daughter. She suffered in silence. But my Dad didn’t let the slights of rebellion and disrespect go unchallenged. I spent a lot of time being disciplined by him (never her)…and for that I blamed her. So again, if my own children grow up to unfairly resent me, well I deserve that to.
My mother understood when I decided to leave home to live in a foreign country or when I made another state my permanent home. She never said anything, just cried and waved good bye – I didn’t care, so if my children are far-flung with little thought for my angst at their being gone – well then, what comes around goes around.
She was the happiest person at the news of my engagement. She welcomed and loved my husband from the beginning. She showed him off to everyone as her new son-in-law. Her nature is to care for him the way she does Dad. Having girls is hard…perhaps having boys would have been an easier road for her – they don’t need a lot of words – just a lot of fried potatoes and cherry pies with an occasional batch of chocolate chip cookies. Finally, she received some happiness – some reflection back to her that “you are a great mother!” Too bad it wasn’t from me. We reap what we sow, – you get the gist.
For years and years after her death I could not think upon or allow myself to dwell upon the regrets. And – the regrets kept coming like tsunami’s in the midst of raising my own children. What is that saying about moccasins and walking a mile? There is a razor sharp pain in knowing you can never say you’re sorry. Unresolved guilt is the most sorrowful kind.
So, here I am and my children are in college. And oh how I got nothing of what I deserved! Yes, I did get the strong-willed child that challenges me to this day – but it is different in meaningful ways with a boy. There was mercy for an ungrateful teenage daughter that was too selfish to see her own flaws, and too eager to point out those of the woman closest to her.
Though God saw fit for grace on one hand – there is still the pain I live with every Mother’s Day in knowing that the first person to know me, the first person to feel me kicking, as if to say “hey, I’m alive!” – the first person that I ever brought joy … well, she is gone. She never saw me pregnant. She never met either of her grandsons. And with her leaving, so left the happiness of my boys knowing what it would be like tasting her fried potatoes, or pies, or chocolate chip cookies. How many times could they have found in her the unconditional love that a mother hones the second time around? How often could they have given her something that I withheld?
The ways and means that I have suffered or gotten my due are numerous, but never so much as I deserved. A sin against a mother seems the most egregious sort of sin…and I think rightfully so – for who, other than God, has known you from before the world knew you?
Thank your mom today and if you have any ought against her – make it right, because tomorrow is not promised to either of you. Moms are the most forgiving beings and rarely hold a grudge, their forgiveness is closely related to that of God’s love for us. Knowing this, is the only consolation I have held on to for the past 28 Mother’s Days.