I have no daughter; it’s something that I will always long for deep within. I have felt the need to create the relationship with a daughter that I never had with my own mother. I know as a parent that no one gives you a manual; you take what you have learned and tweak it, throw out the bad, and try to fill in the gaps with the pieces you feel that you missed out on. Then you wrap it all up in love. I have already made it clear to my kids that I am far from perfect; i will screw up, but I LOVE them with all my heart and I am going to do my best to raise them into good men. It’s hard for a woman to raise a man.
“And so our mothers and grandmothers have, more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see – or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read.” – Alice Walker
My mother has always been beautiful and she possesses a flair for the artistic & dramatic. As a writer she had the potential to be quite successful if she hadn’t chosen to be a “mother” to a brood of children instead. Back then you didn’t get a choice. I remember growing up as a small child feeling her frustration. Knowing even then that she had regrets about her choices. As a six-year-old I didn’t understand them; I felt like I was in the way, and it was confusing.
As a teenager of the 1950’s my mother lived what appeared to be a storybook life; cheerleading captain, most popular, star of the play, and Queen of the Senior Ball. We used to play in her ball gowns from high school when I was a kid…I remember the blue one with the white flowers as my favorite. The pictures of her at 16 in her strapless gown, hair done up, and red lipstick on as she waited for her boyfriend (my father) to pick her up for a dance are forever imprinted in my mind. To me her adolescence was storybook and I figured mine would be the same. Truth be known, she had an oppressive and abusive father; and those times were turbulent for her. She ignored the bad and focused on the good memories as she tried to find herself as a young mother. I only got part of the story, and to me it was what fairy tales were made of.
“In search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.” – Alice Walker
My parents are still married to this day. They are done raising their children and have grandchildren now. They made a lot of mistakes raising us, like most parents do. It was brutal actually. Fear caused them to be strict and turn to religion as the proverbial crutch. The iron clad grip that they had on us backfired. There were no dances, strapless gowns or red lipstick for me; no dating or MTV either. I felt cheated. I was about 15 when I realized that there was no storybook for me; I realized that I was never going to have what my mother did so I decided to reject it all. I rejected her. Her religious beliefs, her conservative style, her need for stability, and her desire for a community of like-minded people. Their friends were the worst…they got in the way and muddied the waters even more for me. So, I rebelled. I took my mother’s creative spark and ran with it. I threw it back in her face and told her that I would have what she always wanted. She chose her life and gave up her dreams, but I wouldn’t. It caused us both a lot of pain, but is was a pain that felt good to me as a teen.
“What I would like to give my daughter is freedom. And this is something that must be given by example, not exhortation. Freedom is a loose leash, license to be different from your mother and still be loved…Freedom is…not insisting that your daughter share your limitations. Freedom also means letting your daughter reject you when she needs to and come back when she needs to. Freedom is unconditional love.” – Erica Jong
So I grew. I raised myself emotionally as she wasn’t there to do that. My parents provided for me and they were always there…and still are. However, as a young adult I was on my own with my thoughts and feelings…pretty scary times when you fuel it with anger. I endured a lot of unnecessary life scenarios because of this dynamic and it has taken me years to get to where I am today.
Today, I have found my life, my way, my beliefs, and my own garden to tend to. I have come to peace with the fact that my life didn’t turn out as I thought it would; there would be no storybook. I fell many times, but every time I fell I got back up. Life handed me lessons and while it took me awhile to learn some of them (and I have many more to learn), I have been an eager student. I am not bitter, I accept what has passed before me. It has all been a part of my journey and it has brought me here. It helped that my parents apologized to my siblings and I when we were in our 20’s. They acknowledged many of their mistakes; while they couldn’t change them they wanted us to know they did their best out of love. Life never handed them a learning manual either and they had to do the best with what they had been given. And so it goes…generation down to generation. We try to correct the sins of the past and avoid making our own inevitable ones.
”We found ourselves always torn between the mothers in our heads and the women we needed to become simply to stay alive. With one foot in the past and another in the future, we hobbled through first love, motherhood, marriage, divorce, careers, menopause, widowhood—never knowing what or who we were supposed to be, staking out new emotional territory at every turn—like pioneers.” – Erica Jong
Today the irony does not escape me. I am so much like my mother in so many ways. I always thought my sister was just like her, but it is clear to me that after all the years of frustration and rejection of my mother it is I who is so much like her. I love my children more than life itself, I am artist, I run a group for like-minded women in the search for a community where I feel supported, safe, and loved…and I write. I have my mother’s passion to help other women and the empathy to do so. She didn’t want me to know her pain growing up and so I only saw the storybook. From that I learned that the truth is so powerful and so important. I wish she had told me the whole story. The empathy she has is what I have inherited from her…It is my birthright and it flows through my veins. It calls to me stronger than my art does at this time in my life. To feel that connection to humanity after being such a rebel for so long is the miracle that my mother gave me. She taught me to give back, to love others; to turn my hard knocks into lessons for helping others survive.
I stay in my garden and I stick to my style of planting, growing, and harvesting. I don’t feel pressured to be different from her to spite her anymore. I am the gardener of my soul and I make the choices for the well-being of myself and my tribe. I plant seeds in the sunlight, but I know that we need the rain to have a bountiful crop. I also know that love, unconditional love makes the flowers grow. That is what my mother gave me. She allowed me to reject her and come back to her and still does, unconditionally.