When I was 26, my mother committed suicide. My life was forever changed, in some ways framed by that single act. Words can’t describe the turmoil and despair of the years immediately after her death. On so many levels, I, as a person, became redefined.
In my mind and in my dreams, my mother became a huge gray mass of negativity. She became the person who caused me unspeakable pain and grief, both in life and in death. My childhood was difficult to begin with, but with her death, it became almost impossible to remember even a glimmer of happiness in my relationship with her.
But I miraculously received a second chance to change our relationship for the better.
For several years during my childhood, my siblings and I took ice skating lessons. As a little foursome, we trudged up these long stairs every Sunday to a tiny little rink in New Haven, Connecticut, where we received lessons from a coach. We were OK, nothing great. But for me, there were many vivid memories of those Sundays, of the ice shows we were in, of the couples doing ice dancing in the arena below. For reasons I can’t recall, we eventually quit skating. My mother was devastated, for reasons I couldn’t understand … maybe something about all that good money going to waste.
About 6 years ago, I took up ice skating once again, after about 30 years of not being on the ice. I was compelled to do it through a friend’s interest, and to get my mind off a tough job situation. I discovered it was wonderful to be on the ice again. The distinctive smell of the ice arenas I skated in brought me right back to my childhood. There was something about skating that was soothing and comforting. I took up ice dancing, doing the type of skating that I had admired so long ago. For my 50th birthday, my sisters gave me money for lessons with Rob, my ice dancing coach. My older sister told me she was so tickled to see me skating again, and that she imagined Mom pleased as punch, smiling down on me as I did my strokes and edges on the ice. What a wonderful image – one that came easily and glowed with a quiet happiness, chasing away some of the grey gloom.
Who would think that I would have a second chance to redefine my relationship with my mother, to cast aside the pervasive darkness … after all those years?? I skate quite a bit now, several times a week. I’m an OK skater, nothing special. Sometimes when I’m gliding on the ice, feeling the pleasure of movement, I imagine my mother smiling down on me, and I feel a small glow of a new kind of mother-daughter relationship.
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