Holidays, Kick-Ass Women, Life

Mother’s Day Reprise

I wrote this for my now shuttered Blue Lyon blog for Mother’s Day 2009.

It’s the Mother’s Day holiday and while I despise the commercialization of the day, it’s good to have a marker that allows us to stop and, for just one day at least, reflect on what our mothers mean to us. For some of us this is not a kind day, but not so for me.

I am a mother. My daughter is never out of mind or heart. I’m a daughter too, and my mother is never out of mind or heart. All of my grandmothers have passed away, and I still miss basking in their grandma love – the kind that let them be as free with me and my brothers as they wished they could have been with our parents. Being a grandma meant never having to say no.

There are three women I call Mom: The woman who bore and raised Sweetie (MIL), the woman who has been married to my father for the past fifty years (SM), and  and the woman who gave birth to me and raised me (MOM).

MOM (Sandra) – I have a wonderful, loving, and complicated mother. So if you’ve been wondering who I get it from, you need only go up one branch on the family tree.  She still carries the pain of the break-up with my father.  I wish it were not so, but it is what it is. I have no memory of my parents together, and I still wonder (really) how two completely different people found each other, married, and bore three children. Together. Tis a mystery. My mother was devoted to us, but in an old-world kind of way. She despised Dr. Spock, and believed a firm hand or stick to the hind end was the proper method of discipline.  The rules were her rules, because she ‘said so.’  “Do as I say, not as I do” was heard on occasion, as well.  Because she was a single mother for nearly all of my childhood, it really was just mom, my brother and me. Having been a single mom myself with only one child to look after, I still am amazed that she was able to do for us as she did.  I have so many wonderful memories of my childhood: so many flashes from my youth which all seem to jumble together.

The vaguaries of memory leave me grasping at moments: a trip to Disneyland when admission still meant some rides were off-limits if you couldn’t afford the ticket, going to the beach and losing my brother, going with mom to a baby shower and sitting in the kitchen on a tall stool drinking grape juice and then going to a park with her afterward, chicken pox, tonsils, making mudpies in the backyard, waking up one morning to find her sitting in the kitchen with a cast on her leg, flying to Hawaii, weekends at Hanauma Bay, the stairs (oh the stairs) from our garage to the front door to the first floor to our second floor bedroom in our house that overlooked Pauoa Valley, the house on Kamehameha Hwy, family visits from the mainland, music, music, music from the dinosaur stereo system, trips to the outer islands, summers at the Y, sharing household and yard chores with my brother, ballet lessons with Mr. Claus, my first pair of heels bought at the same shoe store on the Fort Street Mall I got my ballet togs ,  hurricanes blowing out power for days at a time, kitten surprises, birthdays, Christmases (and the four-color light that cast its glow on our “flocked” tree), wandering around the University of Hawaii with my brother while mom took night classes,  the Columbia Inn, intermediate school, high school, mono, my first heartbreak, college, moving away, moving back, moving away again for the last time, marriage, grandchild, and on and on and on. 

Through all of it, mom was there, loving us, shaping us, watching over us, expressing correction, opinion, or praise. Her names, depending on my age: Mama, Ma, Mom. She is my heart. And I love her.

SM (Dolly) – As a child I read fairy tales that warned me of “wicked step-mothers” who despised the children of their husbands’ former wives, but my step-mother never treated me as an other.  When I’ve been in her home, I’m just another one of the pack.  She has the patience of a saint and the organizational skills of a drill sargent. She taught me to play tennis, and trusted me (crazy woman) to learn to drive in her  beloved Mustang. Honestly, what was she thinking as I ground gears and gave her whiplash in the South High parking lot? She never let on. I’ve watched her make a loving home for my father, who is more than a handful, even now at the ripe age of 8o. 

Though she’s married to my dad, I’ve never connected her with my parents divorce. I’ve only known her as my father’s mate. And yet, for years I resisted calling her “mom” because somehow I felt letting her hear those words from me  would be a betrayal of my birth mother. But when my mother chose to sit out Sweetie and my wedding in 2002, it was my step-mom who was introduced to all my friends as my mom.  It seemed much easier than trying to explain the family ‘dynamics’ to everyone, and from then on she was “Mom” too.  And I love her.

MIL (Gayle) – I have the world’s best mother-in-law. No, really. From the first day that Sweetie brought me to her home, her arms have been open to embrace me and my (at the time) fourteen-year-old daughter and to fold us completely, and without reservation, into her life, her family and her heart. She asked only one thing of me:  to make her son happy. He’d seen his share of heartache, and she didn’t want him hurt again. I hope I’m living up to her request.  I’ve probably confused the hell out of her sometimes. I know I’ve hurt her feelings too. But her generous heart has forgiven me time and again, and for that I am grateful. She raised a wonderful son, and I’ve been lucky enough to reap the rewards.

Family holidays were always spent at her home, and she delighted in the decorating and the planning and showering us all with her special brand of love (read: gifts and food – lots and lots of delicious food “Are you sure you’ve had enough?”).  When she married in 2004 and moved to Hawaii, we all felt the loss, and none of the rest of us left behind seem to be able to pull it of with the same style.  When she comes back for a visit, it feels like our world just lights up. I’ve called her Mom since nearly the beginning and only refer to her by her first name when talking to my sister-in-law.

My three moms. I love them all.

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