It’s Mother’s Day today here in the US. I woke up thinking of my Mom. She passed away just about eight years ago. Hard to believe I haven’t seen her for that many years.
As I thought about her, I thought of this picture above of the two of us together, in one of those picture booths they had back in the day. We were traveling across the country by car and these picture booths were available at many of the rest stops in the midwest. The rest stops situated on overpasses that graced the highways. My parents had just split up and mom was taking us to visit our grandparents in Michigan. She drove the four of us, my sisters and me, all the way across the country by herself in her 1964 1/2 Bronze-colored Mustang.
I got up and looked at the real picture and as I looked at it, what struck me, maybe for the first time ever, was her full humanity – the fact that she was just a human being. What struck me was her age – she was 36 years old here. So young to be facing motherhood on her own. She had her parents 2,500 miles away, but she had no siblings. And, she was facing great shame and judgment during a time when single motherhood was very uncommon.
She was just a woman, a young woman, hit hard by infidelity, separation, and divorce.
I could feel this ‘just a woman’ piece for the first time. You know how, as kids, we see our parents as gods? How they seem so much larger than life, as if they are super people with super powers? And in seeing them this way, their love when we get it is magnified like 1,000x? 10,000x? or even a 1,000,000x? And, so are their limitations, wrongdoings, and faults?
I don’t know if that is how you’ve carried your parents’ (especially Mom’s) limitations and wrongdoings, but for so many years I did. They hurt so much.
But seeing her here as this beautiful woman, trying to hold it together while in so much pain, and seeing me next to her, eyes full of love for her and getting my face as close as I could to her face, what has been left of any feelings of not enoughness-of-love fell away. I could see that everything hurt so much because I loved her so much. We do as kids. We love our parents so much because we are still in touch with that purity of love, that innocence of love – until we cannot bear to feel it in a world that’s forgotten it. That was how it worked for me. Perhaps, it was different for you. And, what I see is this underlying way children are, still holding up this huge image of Mom because the love within our hearts is huge and full and without resentment – until it no longer is huge and full and without resentment.
Oh, how I see her now in her humanness. Her frailty and amazing strength to do what she had to do. And, I see my love for her – my big-hearted, shiny-eyed love for her. I just wanted her to be happy and I couldn’t make that happen. I just wanted to be happy and I wanted her to see me happy, and she just couldn’t all the time because of course she was human and doing what we do to get through these lives we are living. Seeing her happy would have made me feel safer during those years.
It feels funny to be writing this at my age – like I should have this all together by now and I didn’t. And, I don’t.
To finally see her in her tenderness, with all of her flaws, trying so hard to keep it together when she probably wanted to just run away from it all, is the greatest gift I could unwrap on this Mother’s Day.
She is no longer perfection who fell from her pedestal. And, neither am I.