Most of my life, I lived away from my birth family. I make that distinction because once you go off and start your own family, the one you were born into becomes once removed, if you know what I mean.
And once removed is a good way to describe my relationship with my mother, father and sisters. We may think we know each other, but unless you’re around for the hard stuff and the day to day struggles, you don’t really see the changes that come over the ones you love. They become frozen in time in a way. The phone calls and occasional visits are not enough to continue to truly know the ones with whom you shared the beginning of your life.
Nothing has made that more apparent to me than the re-acquaintance I’ve experienced with my mother. Mothers and daughters have that traditional thing, you know – where to be told we’re like our mother is the absolute worst thing you can tell us. But for me, that’s not true anymore.
I came back to California four years ago and began a new relationship with my family. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but for each one there was a renewal. With my mother, I’ve learned that I’m very much like her and I’m proud of that.
She’s tough, brave, a hard-worker and very imaginative. We share the imagination. When she gets an idea in her head, she’s also hell-bent on doing it and woes be to the person who stands in her way. I also inherited that trait.
The mother who sewed clothes for all of us – my three sisters and I – and did all the traditional 1950s mom stuff is not the woman I know now. I’m sure she’s at the core of this new person, but I’m really having fun with the version I know now. She laughs and isn’t afraid to be silly. She’s up for almost anything. If I have anything to be concerned about now, it’s that she may well work herself into the ground.
What I’m seeing now that I couldn’t see for many years is that my mother is so much more than that. She’s a person, a woman in her own right, not defined by her motherhood, simply shaped by it in some ways. Now, after all these long years, she’s my friend.
I love you, Mom.