For many years, I didn’t like Mother’s Day. After my mother’s death, living in a family that never really talked about her afterwards, I buried my feelings and pretended this day didn’t exist. The advent of Facebook and its accompanying explosion of commemorative photos and sentiments made it harder to ignore, though I tried, by not checking in much and rarely acknowledging anyone’s posts.
As I’ve worked to come to terms with my own family history, it’s become a little easier to acknowledge the happiness of others. This year, I posted some photos of my own, both of my mother before I knew her, and one from the years when I did. I always wished I knew her as she was when she was young. A beautiful dancer and singer who went to modeling school and believed in behaving like a lady, she was robbed of her grace by trauma that left her with a core of fear and, most likely, shame and regret. While she was a good mother, I always wished she could have modeled for me the ease of being the center of attention, and been someone I wanted to emulate instead of keep in the background, loving her but wishing she could somehow be different.
If she had, I might have been a performer myself, studying ballet as she wanted me to and maybe sticking with piano, for which I had talent. Instead, I took karate lessons, played softball, and channeled my energy into more aggressive pursuits. Had I not tried so hard to do the opposite of what she wanted, then when I finally discovered my own love for dance, I could have had the foundation to make much more of it than simply teaching aerobics and hip-hop at the gym.
Still, she was loving and nurturing, and supported my academic achievements without placing undue pressure on me. I started reading at the age of 4, and was easily ahead of all my classmates at school until the second grade, when I began to fall behind. At a parent-teacher conference, my mother asked the teacher what could be done about this, to which the teacher responded, “she’ll grow out of it.” Unsatisfied with this, my mother bought language arts workbooks and made me work with her every day after school — when I would much rather have been playing outside — until she figured out the problem: I was reading so fast (probably to stay ahead of everyone), that I wasn’t comprehending the material. She forced me to slow down until I regained a natural (still fast!) pace where I was again understanding and, again, able to excel.
That kind of love and support is some of the best you can hope for from a mother, and despite the wall of unspoken truths that always existed between us, I’m glad that I’ve reached a point in my life where I can feel truly grateful. For her sake, I wish her life could have been more fulfilling — but while my own life might have been different as a result, it has guided me instead towards becoming a teacher and a guide for healing. That’s a legacy I’ll gladly embrace.
Happy Mother’s Day to all.