Friday, September 14, 2012

Revelations from a birthday card

I had the carpets cleaned this morning.  As they were drying I put back all the little items that I'd stacked on top of desks and tables, including the Memory Box where 18 years ago I stored several items that remind me of my mother.  For some reason this time, I opened the box and looked through it.  Scarves, some of her jewelry, and the bottle of Cover Girl makeup that smells like Noxema (sp?) -- a smell that never fails to bring my mother close to me again.

But today especially it was the two birthday cards she'd sent me that caught my attention.  One was from the year before she died, when I was 38.  Inside the card these words are printed: "Have always felt so proud of you /  Have always loved you dearly / Have always wished you happiness--daily, monthly, yearly / Have always held such hopes for you / And it's so good to see / The very special person / That you've grown up to be. /  Happy Birthday."

And in her handwriting above these words, she had written: "This is true!"

Tears fell.

I cried because I have a new sense of the wasted years in our relationship.  Well, maybe not wasted, but years that were full of conflict when the truth is all I wanted was her love, and all she wanted was to love me.  We couldn't get past the expectations, the different temperments, the harsh words spoken --too late to take them back.

When my sister visited here in July was the first time I really had an inkling of these things.  Susan somehow, brilliantly really, got through to me.  I saw so clearly for the first time in my life  how very much of mom's energy was always directed at me.  I was the one for whom college was paid.  I was the one who got piano lessons, I was the one she kept on and on and on trying to have a relationship with.  So much time and energy she spent on me, and all the time and energy I spent trying to keep her at bay.  God, I couldn't see it.  So utterly blind.

I have some compassion for myself, don't get me wrong.  Psychologically I still think I needed to make the break, cut the apron strings, etc., but oh how I wish I could've done that with a modicum of grace.  Part of it was my involvement with Charlie, who most definitely encouraged me to break with her.  I couldn't see his ulterior motive, his manipulation.   Ugh, it's all so complicated.  I remember my brother making a comment right after Mom died. He said that he and Susan never needed to make the same kind of psychological break with Mom that I did.  At the time, arrogantly, I thought that ALL children need to do that with ALL parents, as if humans are psychological cookie-cutters.

He was right.

Susan's temperment matched Mom's.  They got along so well.  Laughed together all the time.  And Susan was never competitive with did she manage that? ... she never felt jealous of all this energy mom spent on me, or at least it wasn't the kind of jealousy that stayed with her.  Perhaps in all of her struggling with me, Mom taught Susan to love me.

And to forgive me.

I know that in my sister remains the lovely portion of my relationship with my mother.  She lives on in Susan.  All these years -- 18 years since Mom died --- all these years and Susan has continued the struggle, continued reaching out despite our numerous fights, despite my taking her for granted (an ugly kind of violence, really), despite my not listening to her.  She's kept at it, not giving up on me as we shouted our hurt and anger at each other.  But she loved me through it all.  Just like Mom.

This human tendency toward self-deception, blindness.  It's taken me 56 years to see this truth.  I pray that this revelation will keep me from repeating the mistake in my marriage.  I know that I still have unfair expectations of David, expectations arising from the wounds I carry still.  Come to think of it, I still have unfair expectations of myself.  Perhaps that's a clue to this restlessness/ennui I've felt this year.

More to ponder.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Wonderful. Mom lives on in this.