We are a smaller than normal group this morning as some women have other commitments, but those who gather to share stories they have worked on since we met last month to the prompt “mothers and daughters” come with strong words, open hearts, and the willingness to be vulnerable within the circle. There are tears and laughter and it’s a sweet, sweet time.
Afterward, since I’m the only one home (save for the dogs) I pull out my paint supplies and dabble. Some projects take days to complete and involve multiple layers, techniques, and mediums, but today, I just want to play. I ask Alexa to play Spa on Sirius XM and set to work (or rather, play) and end up with something I’m happy with painted on a Dollar Store 12 x 12 canvas I picked up yesterday just for fun.
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Here’s the piece I shared with the group this morning. Thought I’d share it with you, also just for fun. 🙂
Mothers and Daughters
Six months after I became a mother for the first time at age 19, my birth mother, Mary, died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism a few weeks before her 60th birthday. I didn’t know this at the time, because I hadn’t yet connected with the people I came from and didn’t know who my birth mother was. I was still in the fog—both the adoptee fog where we insist our adopted state has nothing whatsoever to do with choices we make or shadowy things that keep us awake in the middle of the night and that sweet, soft fog new motherhood wraps us in, where little exists outside the mother/baby bond.
Six years later, my 55-year-old adoptive mother, Laura, died suddenly—also of a pulmonary embolism and also in March—catapulting me prematurely into the unlikely role of the family matriarch and the unwanted status of someone who has lost two mothers. Whether I felt her absence when she died, I surely felt the loss of my first mother when I was born and immediately taken from her, and now I was also grieving the unexpected loss of my second. I felt alone, both rudderless and motherless.
So began years of searching. Searching for my first mother, learning she was dead, and coming to grips with the fact that there would be no reunion this side of heaven. Searching for the courage to leave a dysfunctional marriage, and for the desire, strength, and wisdom to pick up the matriarchal reigns I had been handed. Searching for myself more than anything else.
My 9lb 14oz daughter, Laurinda, was the first person I set my eyes upon who was biologically related to me. She was beautiful, born with dark hair like her dad’s, and every time someone remarked on their resemblance, I cringed. I wanted so much for my daughter to look like me and be like me. I tried to shape her into a fantasy Linda-like mold, but my strong-willed daughter didn’t take kindly to my attempts to force her into being anyone other than who she was. Predictably, in hindsight, though I couldn’t see it at the time, as she grew older, she pushed back against me. Hard.
There were years of struggle when neither of us understood the other and both of us wished it could be different. I didn’t understand her choices and I wasn’t the mother I wish I could have been to her during those years. Eventually, things mellowed between us and really changed with the birth of her daughter, Makiya.
As I write this, Makiya is sitting at my dining table eating a bowl of Cheerios. She is grumpy for no reason I can ascertain, and making sure her mom and I know it. Laurinda and I are standing at the kitchen counter having a conversation before she heads off to work. We all feel testy and unsettled now and then—like we have an irritating itch we can’t identify the source of much less scratch. This irritation is highly contagious and, let’s be honest, with three women in the room—one who hasn’t had a lot of experience with managing it—it has the potential to spread.
Makiya growls at something on her phone and turns toward us to interject herself into our conversation. The relationship between my daughter and her teenage daughter is at that stage where things can go south before anyone realizes it. I remember those days all too well. As the older, and supposedly wiser, of the three, I make a conscious and calm effort to include Makiya in the conversation and the three of us end up laughing, my granddaughter reluctantly and a little petulantly, but laughing nonetheless.
“Back in the day, no one who knew me would have believed that I’d be the stick in the mud and my mom would be the fun one,” my daughter tells her daughter. “No one wants to be like their mother when they’re young, but before you know it you open your mouth and your mother’s voice comes out.” Makiya groans. I smile.
“Why can’t you be more fun like Grandma,” my granddaughter tells her mother when she’s annoyed by the way she breathes or some other thing moms do to exasperate teenagers. “Grandma’s the only one who is allowed to hug me,” she says when she wants to get a rise out of my daughter. And again, I smile.
A couple of years ago the three of us were wandering around on paths in a local park and Makiya suggested we each say three descriptive words about one another. “Wise” was one of the words my daughter used to define me. Wise. Who would have believed it? I’ve experienced a lot of loss in my life but I’ve also been blessed with priceless gifts, and the two of the most precious are the relationships I enjoy with my daughter and granddaughter.
This is a strong emotionally charged story. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you, Letty.