What is the definition of Mother? I asked myself this question after her recent visit to my home. In one weekend, she angered me, made me laugh until my chest burned, and brought me to tears with tender conversations about our past. Who is this person who can turn my life upside down and then back again?
I believe Mother means these things: ever present, peacekeeper, disciplinarian, and unconditional lover – among other job titles. Mama was all of these to me, her only child.
On more than one occasion, when Daddy’s belt bit into the flesh of my hip, Mama stood between us – she, my intercessor.
If I strayed from her rules, she punished to keep me in line. However, her greatest trait was the ability to show me I was the most important person in her life. It was her willingness to be there.
Often after working eleven-hour days, she constructed Barbie clothes on a portable Singer sewing machine or staged doll fashion shows with those newly made dresses and coats.
She and I were (and remain) very different types of people. She, a homemaker, gourmet cook, decorator, perfectionist, crafter, and early-riser. I, a messy housekeeper, fast food junkie, and late-sleeper. Yet, she shrugs off my lack of wallpaper in the bathroom and I oblige her pleas to take off my shoes at the front door.
We deal with the small things because we are bound by the large things – like my father’s suicide, her father’s alcoholism, and our shared love of my children.
When I find myself dwelling on Mama’s quirkiness, I stop and recall my best friend’s relationship with her mother. Lily’s mom has schizophrenia and doesn’t want communication with her daughter.
On Lily’s birthday, in celebration of our overcoming our “mother issues,” I gave her a small pillow. It read If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother. That phrase suits every woman I know with maternal ties that seem knotted with frayed rope.
Despite my mom’s faults, she is in my corner, ready to fight for my rights.
This I believe. If I were in a remote country and needing aid, she would be the person to travel on foot and eat wild plants to be by my side. She would wear a home-sewn frock, reek of chocolate pound cake, and sport pearl-pink toenail polish, but she would be there.
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