Monday, February 26, 2007


My parents sold their house last year and moved into a smaller, newer one. The house was bought by a developer who will tear it down and build expensive loft/condo homes in its place. I felt a little sad about it initially, but now I hardly even think of it. This morning, I came across a postcard on Post Secret about a person looking for home and not finding it. That made me think of the house I grew up in.

My mother had occasion to go by that old house last week, and in true dramatic form, it upset her greatly. She told me how terrible it looked, how a storm had brought down a tree on one of the storage building on the property and how overgrown everything was. I asked her why she kept going by there, because it didn't make sense to me. I don't force myself to do things that make me cry or make me sad, I avoid those things at all costs. But not my mom, oh no. She lives to for that kind of shit! Anyway, she said she had to see it "one more time". Why?, I asked her. She went on in a somewhat fake sad voice to say that it was the house we all lived in together as a family, that there were so many memories there, etc. and so on.

I don't feel that way about it. To me, it is just a structure. All of the things inside of it have moved on and grown bigger. My brother has his own family, I have mine and my parents sre lucky enough to still have each other. I told my mother this, in an effort to help her see the positive side of things for a freakin' change. She did one of her dramatic sighs and said, "I guess so".

My mother seems sad and she seems lonely. She never really spent any time developing herself, finding out who she was and what she liked. She didn't build a tight circle of friends and now she spends most of her days at home alone while my dad is at work. My dad, God love him, isn't a big talker. He never has been. When I speak to my mother on the phone, I get to say hello and then say that I'm doing fine, and then I spend 30 minutes listening to her tell me all about the groceries she bought or the doctor appointments she has lined up for the week or the hair and nail appointments or sometimes her cleaning and laundry plan for the week. I always end up wishing I had not called or answered her call, halfway through it. I always have to cut her off and say, "Mom, I really have to hang up NOW, I have to go!" I feel bad, I feel guilty, but most of all I feel sad. Sad for her, that she doesn't have a lot of people to talk to and even if she did, she doesn't have much to say. Sad for me because I understand (finally) that I will not get the mother-daughter relationship I have wished for since I was a little girl. We just don't work like that and we never will. She loves me, yes. She doesn't listen to me and she doesn't understand who I have become. She doesn't seem interested in learning that either. When we talk, she will ask me how I am, how the kids are, how my husband is. I will answer, and sometimes attempt to expand on it and tell her some story about what they have done, and she will give me the "ummmmm, oh!" and then begin talking about herself. Everything ends up being about her. Always. And that is just how it is.

During my adolescent years, I was angry and frustrated and did a lot of things I should not have done. I understand now that I did those things in an attempt to get attention from my parents. I had been the good kid for years, making all As and following directions, staying out of trouble. I got a job when I was 14 and have worked ever since. It seemed like the more self-sufficient I became, they less they noticed I existed. That made me angry. I wanted my mom to ask me about my friends, be interested in the 8th grade gossip. I wanted her to listen to the new album I bought and pretend to think it was cool or at least tell me it was too loud and she was too old for that kind of music. I wanted her to go shopping for clothes with me and get frustrated when she had to go back and forth to the rack and bring me different colors or sizes. I wanted her to force my bedroom door open, angry that I had stayed out way too late or that I had not called home to check in. Well, I wanted her to require me to call home in the first place really. And most of all, I wanted my mom to care that a boy had broken my heart and made me cry for days. I wanted her to shred his picture with me and then take me out for dinner, just her and I. I wanted my mother to clean the deep knife wound a boy made in my arm out of anger and jealously and I wanted her to hug me and tell me that I wasn't stupid for caring about him still, even after he did that to me.

But, I didn't get that. She was detached from me so I felt alone for the most part. I was angry about that for a long, long time. I feel like I have put most of those feelings behind me, but every once in awhile they come back.

And that brings me to finding home. I realized how lucky I am when I read that postcard. I have found home and it is a wonderful home. My home isn't attached to the house we live in, but to the people inside it. My own family, as whacked as we are at times, has provided me with all of the things I wished so hard for as a young girl. My husband listens when I have to let out my feelings about my mom. He listens to me and he doesn't judge me. He still grabs my butt when he passes me in the kitchen and he still thinks I'm hot, even though I am not really. My daughter asked me every day, first thing, if I had heard the results from a kidney test I had done last week. She was worried about me and it was touching to know that. My boys hug and kiss me and hold my hand, for no reason at all. My family is mine, and in it I feel safe, loved, understood and happy. This is home and the best thing about it is, I can take that with me anywhere and it isn't tied to a structure or to trinkets from childhood or to old pictures. It is tied up in our hearts, in our souls. That is where family lives.

As I go about the business of raising my own children, I try really hard to remember how I felt. I get really angry with my kids sometimes and I lose my temper. But I also feel really happy with them sometimes and I hug them and let them know that. I hope that when they are grown, they will understand that I loved them, in my angry response to them doing something dumb that could have caused injury to themselves, and also in my happy hugs and kisses. I feel very accomplished this week because I am close enough with my 11 yr old daughter to know that one of her very best friends started her period. My mother never knew that kind of stuff about my friends, because she never laid on my bed at night and chatted with me. My daughter told me about her friend because I was there and I was listening. She told me that she wasn't worried about herself and that she thought she knew what to do, but she would definitely call me if I was not home when it happened to her. She may have felt a little shy talking about that stuff with me, but she did it. I felt like I had won a medal, being given that in with her. I must stay diligent and stay connected with her, it is going to get increasingly harder over the next few years, but it has to be done. She is at a place in her life where things will start to change for her and these things she feels comfortable talking to me about. Not dad (she has always been Daddy's girl), but me. I am so honored and so thrilled that I get the chance to be the mother that I wanted to have. Wish me luck.


At 12:22 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

I hope I am as blessed with a great relationship with my daughter as you are. Your post moved me.

At 1:18 PM, Blogger Steph said...

it's amazing how even though we've been friends for so many years and been through so much together, I learn new things about you every day. this post really inspired me and was so beautifully written and full of so many truths on so many levels. I'm so glad that you are having these wonderful moments. As you said, even when you lose your temper with her, she KNOWS that you love her and that's WHY you lose your temper, because you want what's best for her and want her to stay safe! Good for you on recognizing all of these wonderful things about your life. I hope one day that I can have the kind of family life that you have full of the many ups and downs, but most of all filled with love, hope and purpose!

At 1:21 PM, Blogger Steph said...

i should also say that i think that's the longest post i've ever seen you write about anything. and that some of our other friends feel exactly the same way about their relationships with their mothers. i have to count my blessings every day about my own relationship with my mom. she drives me crazy about different things, like the fact that she can't manage her money and i'm worried about how she'll ever retire, but we've always been emotionally close. i don't blame you for being sad, but it's a wonderful growing experience for you to come to terms with so many of these feelings. and the best thing i think you can do for your mom is to be patient with her as she tries to relate to you in the only way she knows how. you know, you could write a book...

At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Barbara said...

How similar our lives are in so many ways? My Mother and your Mom behave in similar ways. I too have dealt with the guilt and frustrations. I avoid the phone calls most of the time and started writing down "topics" to talk about so that I do not become upset when the conversation turns so negative and strange. I am so glad you want to be close to Hayden. Your personal choice to do so, will help her in so many ways. I felt very cut-off from my Mother emotionally growing up. She always expressed love to us. I understand now she had a great deal troubling her, but even in our adult relationship, she still doesn't go out of her way to "know me" and I know you understand how after all this time - all we really want is for someone to understand us.


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