Sunday, May 8, 2011
Mother's Day is a funny day for me. I'm always aware of it, of course. Don't go to Swoon for brunch today with your half-price certificate, says D this morning - no, I won't, today's definitely not the day. I'm 51 - I never became a mother. I can't say it was a conscious decision. It just didn't happen. To be honest, I don't know if I regret it or not. It's a completely different mode of being. Had I become a mother I suppose I'd be a very different person. It's wrapped up with my marriage. If I'd married somebody else all these years ago, someone who had firmly wanted children (I have personally never encountered such a man, not in my life, and that includes my father), let alone children with me (now truly, I have never encountered that man) then perhaps it might have happened. Because as strongwilled & defiant as I can be in some ways, I'm essentially passive in others. Would I have made a good mother? Honestly, I don't know. I battle in my mind with my own mother, deceased now for more than twenty years. I have a very ambivalent relationship with her - to this day. She did her best - yes - and yet. Would I, could I, have done better by a child of my own? I find it very hard to navigate our culture, the Way Things Are. So how might I have guided a child? That's a main issue I have with my mother, actually. She couldn't cope with the postwar U.S. society into which she'd been dumped with a violent alcoholic husband. She found herself isolated, estranged, and alone. She had no family to speak of (my mother herself, since infancy, had been motherless; her husband's sister & mother were in their own bubble, not at all allied with my mother) or any other kind of support system. And then she found herself pregnant (I think I may have been conceived on the oceangoing voyage here), and then again, and again, and again. She couldn't cope, suffered from migraines and depression and it was all too much.
It was hard to grow up in the midst of all that, try to figure things out very much on my own. My mother did a lot to formally educate me, supplement my lame public school education with cultural & musical & artistic offerings, which were utterly lacking in the public school (esp. elementary) since we were in a poor neighborhood & school funding had to do with local property taxes.
(I was a paralegal at a Manhattan law firm in the eighties, and was very friendly with an Irish-American woman who was very merry and cheery and worldly wise. I've lost track of her in the many years since, but on occasion I'd confide in her, on a slow day wander by her desk in an inner office (attorneys had the outer offices with the views). I was in my twenties, had around this time met D (had or hadn't, it was around this time) and I said to her something to the effect of how I feel I might wish to have children, to have someone to love. I don't know if that's what I said, exactly, it's only just coming to me now. And she looked at me with horror and said that's the worst reason to have children.)
My mother accidentally, it seems, had children, but once she had them (as far as it went for me) things would have gone better if (a) we were moneyed in pre-war Warsaw, (b) I had the talent & drive to be a concert pianist, or (c) I was a bombshell who could parlay on her looks.
(d) none of the above - c'est moi
And it's okay, here I am. How can I complain? Things are uncertain, unscripted - definitely. Probably, honestly, I wouldn't wish it any other way. I never made the proactive choice not to be a mother -
Honestly, I don't know. I feel outside the whole thing, really. It just didn't happen, in all the years since menarche. It's a strange feeling - on Mother's Day.
But little images & memories come to mind. Not of my mother, but my first boyfriend’s mother Felicity would drive me home, miles & miles away in the dark, she was very maternal in her way to me. She's someone I relate to now, at my age. I remember her recounting her shock of being fired for whatever reason, it lingered with her. I think I may be roughly her age now that she was back then, having too experienced a not dissimilar shock, how one's life story is to take a sharp, unwelcome turn, despite all strivings & appearances. Anyway, I remember her fondly, I'd sit in the passenger seat next to her as she drove me home, and she and I would have these wonderful conversations and she would inexplicably jolt & twitch which I thought was a weird mannerism, not knowing then, and not until many years later that it was Parkinsons.
And I try to remember my mother with some sense of love and warmth. I don't feel it. She wasn't very maternal, not to me. But I can connect to her as a woman - well, let's just say that maybe I feel a sense of the emotion that is usually understood as forgiveness. Or empathy. Or commonality. I don't know.
Listen darling, I've gone on way too long. Loving you dearly, many kisses -