Wednesday, July 18, 2007

motherless daughter

Yesterday was fourteen years since my mother died from cancer.

While I am thankful that I had nineteen years with Mum, it saddens and angers me that I have missed out on sharing more of my life with her. There was a lot of unfinished business between my mother and I. Perhaps "business" between a mother and her daughter is never finished but I feel like I barely had a chance to even begin to resolve some of the issues. We didn't get any time together as women rather than as woman and child. It goes without saying that I miss my mother. However these days, time passes without me thinking of her. Sometimes even a few days. Other times I can't get her out of my mind. When I gave birth to my own daughter last year was one of those times. I wondered then when I looked at and held my newborn daughter if my mother felt the same feelings I did when she first saw me. I still wonder how she felt about having a girl child. There is something about having a daughter. That is not to say having a son isn't just as meaningful to me, there is just some primordial about having a daughter. My mother had lost several babies prior to my birth. All of them had been boys. I was her first girl child. I imagine by that point she was just glad to have a living, breathing baby. But I am sure the irony wasn't lost on her that to that point in time, her one surviving child was a girl.

Now that I have a daughter of my own I am even more aware of not repeating some of the patterns that transpired between my mother and I. I know that mother-daughter relationships bring with them their own unique complications but I hope to at least make the complications with my own daughter different to those between my mother and I. I never really knew if my mother was proud of anything I did. I assumed she was. I hoped she was. But I never knew for sure. Even now that I am in my 30s, I wonder sometimes if she would be proud of what I have achieved. I hope that my daughter will always know, without a doubt, when I am proud of her. I also hope that I can be a bit more matter of fact and open with my daughter about "secret women's business". I have vague memories of Mum giving me a book about the facts of life (not a very informative book either) and of her asking me (the day before my first wedding) if there was anything she "needed to tell" me. We never had a discussion about sex. We may have had a very rudimentary chat about menstruation but I have no memory of it. My recollection is that I learned about menstruation mainly from the Judy Blume book "Are you there God, its me, Margaret" and about sex also courtesy of Judy Blume, this time from the pages of "Forever". I think Mum let me down a bit in that regard. I hope I can do a bit better job with my own daughter when the time comes.

My mother and I fought a lot. I always felt she never really understood me. There were a lot of contributing factors to why I felt that way but one that has struck me more and more as I have gotten older myself is that Mum and I were a lot alike. These days I have a lot of family and long time family friends say to me "Oh you are just like your mother" or "I can just hear your mother saying that" and at times I hear myself saying something and think "Oh god, I sound just like my mother". While sounding like their mother is something most women dread to some extent, myself included, there is also some sort of comfort in it at the same time.

There are things about my relationship with my mother and qualities she had, that I hope I can emulate. Mum was always very open with my about my biological father. It was never hidden from me that she had been married to someone else before (the man I call) Dad and that I was born during that marriage. I have no memory of that time so it would have been easy for her to hide it from me. And because I was adopted there is no mention of my biological father on my amended birth certificate. So withstanding blabbermouthed relatives, she could have hidden it from me. At least until I was a lot older. But she didn't. I have been aware of my paternity ever since I can remember and I am thankful for that.

Mum was also the creative type. She sewed handmade clothes for my dolls. We made all sort of things from plasticine and Fimo modelling polymer. She made me furniture for my dolls house, fantastic costumes for school dress up days, she sewed the curtains and quilt cover and made the lampshades for my bedroom. She bought me books as part of the weekly grocery budget and took me to the library every week (this involved a 45 minutes return trip). From the time I started school things weren't always great between my mother and I but I have a lot of happy memories as well as the not so happy ones. In retrospect I strongly believe Mum suffered from depression, possibly even bipolar, as her moods and activity cycled up and and down on a regular basis. But I know she did the best she could and if she was fighting that demon (mental illness) then I appreciate what she did do, even more.

While I am a different woman than my mother there are a lot of similarities in our lives. I have often wondered if to an extent I am subconsciously reliving her life. There have been time I have looked at pictures of her at a particular age and me at the same age to see what similarities there are in our appearances. I have also compared what she was doing in her life and what I was doing at the same age. Apparently a lot of motherless daughters practice this ritual. I wont be able to do that anymore come 2020. I will be 46 then and Mum was 46 when she died. I imagine that will bring with it a whole new set of challenges. Its not something that scares me as much as intrigues me.

And I know I got my sense of curiosity and wonderment from my mother.