Sunday, January 27, 2013

there's something about mary

I've started this post at least three times now.  Writing about my mother is not an easy task.  She is strong willed, and raised three daughters who are just as strong, in different ways.  I wanted to give her something for her birthday, on Christmas day, then decided that writing about my mom goes way beyond a birthday post.

Mom grew up in the Great Depression.  Something that is foreign to most people from the current generation, and is only familiar to my generation because we were told, over and over, how hard the Depression was.

Born on Christmas Day because of a fall my Grandma took on the ice on her way to Mass on Christmas Eve at midnight, mom made her way into the world, and was kind of puny from the get go.  Little did anyone know, she had mettle that would get her through birth and childhood, and into adulthood.
Mom had dark hair, and green eyes, and I can only imagine her as a child.  I have a vivid imagination, but because of the relationship I have had with my mother, I never really thought of her as a child.  She has always been the iron willed woman in my life, the one who was controlling when I was a teenager, so much so that a couple nights before I got married, when I foolishly thought a curfew didn't matter and arrived late (very late) home from a date with my soon to be husband, mom met me at the door and set my ears on fire with her words.  I still remember those words:

"As long as you live in my house, you will live by my rules.  Until you are married, those rules stand."

This was also the same woman, who told me on my way out the door on June 9, 1970, that she didn't want me to feel pressured to get married.  It was my choice, not because she didn't want me at home.

My mother has always been a dichotomy to me.  Someone I could never quite figure out.  Someone who I felt rushed headlong into divorce, and yet managed to raise us, and fix TVs and do plumbing when the need arose.  A woman who depended on no one to provide for her, or her girls.  A woman who taught us our work ethic, and that anything worth doing was worth doing well, and doing right.  A woman who reinforced this by dumping our dresser drawers in the middle of the floor in a pile if they weren't neatly organized according to her standards (yes, she inspected everything).

Mom was a woman I was often angry at, or hurt by.  I often thought it was because she didn't understand me.  For many years I held a lot of resentment and turmoil inside me, thinking that mom didn't really understand me, and that she was a selfish person, basically.

But now, in the past year or so, I think about other things.

About the times when I was living and working in California, driven to the brink of insanity by my sister, and mother was the voice of reason.  She never took sides.  She just listened to me, and counseled me, and made me see my sister through her eyes.  And made me realize this sister was part of me, part of my heart, and that no amount of aggravation would change our love for each other.  My mother, the person I thought had the most unreasonable temper of us all, turned out to be the person who balanced me, and centered me, who made me realize that with all our warts and imperfections, we are still all special.

All these thoughts, and feelings, jelled suddenly the other day, when Stevie Wonder brought an envelope to me at work, from my Uncle Jack.  I opened it and saw this:
Mom is on the left.  I just stared at it.  And felt like I had been hit in the chest with a brick.  When Steve left and I was alone, I began to cry.  I turned the photo over, and saw the date on the back of it.  1943.  Mom was in the eighth grade.  That is her on the left.

Suddenly, I realized.  Mary is much more than just my mom.  She has lived a life, a long life.  She was a child, and a young girl, a young woman and mother.  A woman of substance and strength.  And now she is an elder, and someone I relate to in more ways than even she or I realize.

There's something about Mary.  Something that is hard to understand, and impossible to label.  So I won't try.

I'll just say thank you Mary.  Thanks for everything.  There are no more words than that.

Except I love you. is good. ~cath
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