In December I looked at the year to come. 2018. My mother, Margaret, was born in 1918. Had she lived this long, she would be 100 this year. I must celebrate her birthday!
Margaret was not the easiest of women to have as a mother. A reluctant mother, she regaled me with her stories from her dating life. Then time caught up with her. She was 24. Her little sister was getting married. My father, handsome and available, fresh from Seattle, wandered into her church singles group in September. They married in January. Their first child was born on their first anniversary. This child, my older brother, died suddenly and tragically at four. Life was not easy for them.
Had she waited even 25 years to be born, my mother would have chosen not to have children. She told me this over and over. She lived vicariously through me, the freedoms she felt I had in the 60’s, the challenges I found in my professional life. The night I told her I was expecting my first child, she replied, “I bet you will drop the baby in the snow.” She was clearly totally disappointed in my choices.
But it was the narcissism that made our relationship particularly difficult. Life with my mother was always a competition. She set the rules. And she won every time. Women were more beautiful with natural curly hair. Perfect pitch made you more perfect. We went to the same elementary school where my teachers, who had been her teachers, told me how perfect she had been as a student. And then, when there was something she did not like to do, by definition, I was better at it. Like cooking. I cooked many of the family meals by the time I was 12.
I had to live with the fact she would always came first. She rewarded me for my self-sufficiency, for all the times I isolated myself from her and the family. Then she could more easily take care of Margaret, celebrate her unique gifts.
I do not want to write a whole essay about poor me, and my less-than-perfect mother! We all tell these stories. What I want to affirm is that I can move beyond the Margaret-the-Narcissist stories. My mother did the best she could under her circumstances. She was married to a brilliant, taciturn man with a rage disorder. She had no support to move through her grief after my brother died. Her husband and her uptight family was certainly unavailable. Her victorian mother, who lived around the corner, could not acknowledge anything tragic. Margaret was on her own. She did her best to care for her toddler daughter, her infant son, her own wounded soul. I can only feel deep empathy for what she went through at that time.
Margaret’s birthday was on Valentines Day. And boy, did we celebrate it! We hung up red hearts. We found the Valentine birthday cards, and bought her ones from all family members, even pets. We planned a red/pink meal—beats, rare steak, tomatoes, cranberry sauce. She and I made all my Valentine cards for my friends, lacy doilies and pink colored paper. We shunned the punch-out books of cards. Too ordinary.
Knowing this celebration is what Margaret wants, I would like to invite you to her Valentine-Birthday party on Wednesday, February 14. We will make lacy cards, decorate heart cookies, and share in her heart-shaped red birthday cake.
But, since I want to move, myself, beyond the pain and sadness of not liking my mother, of constantly being embarrassed by her, I want to be sure this celebration is one where we celebrate all mothers. I believe we need to express or gratitude for all love they brought to us as we grew through the years.
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"