Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Mother's Legacy

I started this blog over a year ago, to express my views on motherhood. It is so easy when you start out on this journey of motherhood to believe that you will do it all differently. That you can avoid all the mistakes your parents and grandparents made and do it right. You start out young, (in my case very young) without thought to what legacies you bring with you, the things that are part of you ingrained from your own experiences. The ghosts of your childhood that will haunt you. I say all this because as I get older I see more and more the parts of my ancestors that I carry with me.

Last month my Grandmother died. She was 83 years old, and a strong woman till the very end when she had a massive stroke and died nine days later. In those final days I couldn't even bear to see her in the hospital because it was so difficult for me to see her as less than strong. She was "Nana Esther" and Nana Esther was made of steel. Even now, I know I have not grieved for her properly, I have shed only a few tears because after all this time there are so many obstacles to my grief, so many conflicting feelings, and still after all this time so much anger, and betrayal and just plain hurt. I did not think that when this time came that I would be revisiting these old wounds but like most funerals, hers ripped them open and my scars are oozing again. And because today is Mother's Day it has me reflecting on what kind of legacy I want to leave after me. What will my daughter say about me, and carry with her from me? Will it be a good or a bad thing?

My mom is nothing like me, she kind and gentle. She is forgiving, in my opinion too forgiving. She is non confrontational, and is always trying to make peace. I am nothing like my mom, I am more like her mother my Nana Esther; I am a strong and passionate. I am always ready for a fight. I have so many defense mechanisms that I am not even sure I know them all. I have always been this way, as long as I could remember.

When I was a little girl my mom used to tell me she wished I could be more meek, or more quiet, like my best friend Crystal. She was always trying to quiet me down. It didn't do her any good, I still can't be quieted down once I have gotten going, and trying to stop me only makes me yell louder. When my mom said those things to me, it always made me feel like she didn't like me, didn't like who I was. Because the truth is all those things they are exactly who I am, they are the characteristics that define me. I am this way because I had to be. It was the consequence of growing up with that family, in that house. They (my family) made me this way.
I always joke that is their bad luck that they created me, and now they don't like their product.

What legacies have been passed down from my great grandmother, to my nana, to my mom, to me? My Nana Esther I have no doubt loved her children. She did everything she could to provide for them despite her circumstances. She was a working mother in an era when mom's didn't work. She didn't work because her husband was dead or couldn't provide, but because even though financial he could provide, he was busy spending his money on his own interests, like his other family and his drinking buddies. She was a woman who had been treated badly by her own mother. She had expressed to her daughters, "My mom never liked me" her mother it was said was jealous of her, because she was very close to her father who was a wonderful man.
I think about these things, and I think, my grandmother felt that her mother never liked her, my mom felt the same way, and in some ways so did I . Is this our legacy? When I am dead will my daughter tell her friends, or her daughter, "my mother never liked me" I hope not. I so want the legacy I pass on to my daughter to be different. But how do I make it so?

My daughter is just like my mom in so many ways, nice, gentle and soft spoken. She is always embarrassed by my passionate outbursts, and I am always frustrated by her lack of fight when I feel she should be defending herself, and confronting something or someone. I worry that she may think like I did, and my mom, did and my Nana did that she somehow falls short in my eyes. When the truth is she doesn't, she is what I am most proud of in this world, and as I often say the only thing I have done right. At least I hope I have done it right, or at the very least, differently.

A lot of time has passed since I was a little girl, and I have forgiven my grandmother for how badly she treated me when I was little, and I can grieve for the pain she had in her life. Because even this hurt and anger will pass, because in the end I love her. I love her strength, and her wisdom, and finally her humility when she was older. The little ways she tried to show she was sorry, and that she loved me. By being kind to my child or telling me about her life. How could I not love her? Not to love her, would be not to love myself. She is part of me.

So I take her with me to the legacy I want to create for my daughter, I take her strength and the love, I'll leave the rest...

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