11 May 2012

Mother Made Me

Grandma Charlene, Her mother Margaret, Grandmother Martha
My mother Jean, myself, my father Louis
Grandma Naomi, her grandmother Eva, Eva's mother Elizabeth
  I'm not one for following the herd. I have attempted to make posts that were timely to discussions I have had offline or participated in online. As Mother's Day is this Sunday, there is some assumption that most, if not all, of your favorite bloggers will be covering the subject. I thought I might do something different.

And it started out that way. I began a post about my father, Louis. You see, when I was 11, my parents divorced. My mother and father had a rocky relationship and it strained my relationship with my mother. I lost touch with my mother and her family for a long time. When Mother's Day would roll around, my teachers would have me make a card for my mother. I made them for my father. (And isn't it odd that Mother's Day is during the school year so we get to make cards, but Father's Day is not?) The schools were naturally "concerned", but for no good reason. While my father didn't know how to raise a girl, having never been one, he did know how to raise a strong human being. One only needs to see us together to know how much alike we are. We can be sarcastic, bull-headed, straight to the point, fiercely loyal and uncommonly charming. Dad says that out of his three children, his only daughter is the son he always wanted. Not that his boys aren't the sweetest, kindest men on the face of the earth. It's just I'm the one most like him. And there are times when "sweet" and "kind" aren't in our vocabulary. While others would think being called his "son" is insulting, I wear it as a badge of honor. I am someone he is proud of. What child doesn't want to hear that?

I love my mother dearly. As I was writing the first draft of my post, I began to think about how much she had influenced me. Take just one look at us and you know we're related. And get us mad, the same look will be burning a hole through you. She is the heart of me. My mother had done all she could to open my mind to life's "options". She taught me to draw, paint, make soap, read tarot, palmistry, and bullshit my way around any problem. To her, life has always been a rushing river of moments. When someone throws up a dam to block your way, or the stream you're following runs dry, you just turn down the next path. If you get caught in dangerous rapids, or face a waterfall where the result at the bottom is unknown, keep your head and work the solution. The end game is already known, it's how you navigate it that matters. If I came up with something wild I wanted to do, she encouraged it. Not because it might work, but because there was a lesson in it- win or lose.

I was shopping in the mall for a gift for my mother this week. One of the salespeople I was conversing with was trying to pad the sale and suggested that my mother wasn't the only mother in my life. I know what she meant; that now was the time to buy a gift for my aunts, grandmothers, cousins, and friends with kids. Well, it didn't work, as my father and I are of the same opinion on that: they aren't my mother, let their kids get them gifts. On the other hand, it struck me like lightning. My mother and father aren't the only mothers who have made my life.

My grandmother Naomi, my father's mother, was my angel. She taught me to knit. I taught her how to haggle at a yard sale. I thought the world of her. She thought I hung the moon. Her life wasn't always easy or fun, but she always laughed. She had six children, but ask anyone that grew up on that street and they'll tell you she was their mother. She would tell me I could do anything I wanted. Not because that's what people tell children, but because she believed I'd make what I wanted happen- hell or high water. She saw my dad's stubborn streak in me, because she saw it in herself. Not that she'd admit it. She's stubborn like that.

While my grandmother Charlene, my mother's mother, wasn't as involved in my life for several years. I do have fond memories of her from my childhood. More than that, I have fond memories of her from the past month. My only still living grandparent, she has taken a special place with me. Nothing brings me as much joy as watching her and my mother interact. I sympathise with my mother in those conversations, because for the moment, she is playing my part. As frustrating as she can be to me, her mother is to her. And that is actually a beautiful thing. It's a heritage that only a mother and daughter can understand. It's like a glimpse of my future selves. One day I will be my grandmother watching my daughter and her child try to politely not claw each other to death and I will see my past. And I will think of the days when I was on the other end of that spectrum, and miss them.

My grandmother Naomi's paternal grandmother, Eva, was much like Naomi. I never met Eva, but dad talks about her like I talk about grandma. She was the ultimate lady, kind and smiling. He cannot talk about her without calling her "the great lady". And to deserve that title from such a man, she must've been the greatest lady of her time. I don't know much about her mother Elizabeth. I do know that they are buried, mother and daughter, not far apart from each other in the same cemetery. And just up the hill from my grandmother Naomi.

My mother's maternal grandmother, Margaret was alive and somewhat well when I was a child. I remember her being short, having shrunk from osteoporosis. I remember her accent. She was born and raised in Scotland, but she spoke Lithuanian when she was a child. She loved everything Scottish. She had a map of Scotland on her bedroom door. We bought her a doll in Scottish dress for her one year. For a long time, she wouldn't talk about her Lithuanian heritage. She was Scottish and that was that. Her mother Martha, was Lithuanian born, however. She and her husband immigrated to Scotland in the early 1900's. I can't imagine what it was like for Martha. She was Jewish, an immigrant, a woman and spoke no other language than Lithuanian. I don't know much else about Martha. What I do know is she must've been tough. And she made her daughter tough. Her influence will make her descendants tough for generations.

Our life is a tapestry. The threads of gentic and cultural heritage are woven together to make us who and what we are. Every generation adds, none subtract. My father gave me a love of history, my mother a love of the present. Naomi gave me a love of humanity, Charlene a love of family. Eva gave me honor, Martha strength. Margaret gave me patrotism, Elizabeth a mystery.

I love languages......... who gave me that?

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