Sunday, May 8, 2011
When my mother was home, her hours were spent doing the household chores that come along with a family. My mother was a tidy woman. A type-A personality that demanded her home was sparkling clean. She had to do things herself. She taught my sister and I how to prepare a house, but she seldom gave us the responsibility. We were shooed away. Instructing us to busy ourselves and stay out of her way. My sister retreated to her room to pour herself into the lives of others. She lived vicariously through Agatha Christie, Stephen King, and any other author that would lead her to a life outside of the home we shared. I would always make my way outside. My imagination was my escape. Outside, my friends and I would explore other worlds. We declared war on one another with pine cones, we discovered uncharted territories, formed secret clubs that required passwords and handshakes that were unknown to outsiders. Outside is where I lived.
The moments that I actually got my mother to myself were at night. At night she was all mine. At night when my sister slept in the bedroom we shared, I would climb into bed with momma. My mom was where I spent most my sleeping hours when I was young. Young enough to need the constant attention of my mother. Young enough to believe that whatever nightmares I may have; all I needed was a kiss from her to quiet the terror that lived inside my head. My mom was my solitude. She was my safety. She was everything to me. This was our special time. The only time that I could have her near me and feel the warmth of love spread over me as she wrapped her arms tightly around my small body.
I had a system that I'd follow to sneak into bed with her. I would climb out of bed at night and tip toe through out the house in search of my mother. My goal was to find her sleeping soundly. When this occurred, I would gently pull back the covers and climb in beside her. Unaware that she sensed my presence even before she heard the sound of my small foot steps, my mom would surprise me with a snug embrace as we settled into the comfort of the pillows and blankets.
There were times during my quest for my sleeping mother that I would turn up empty handed. Unable to locate the missing woman in her room, I would search the other areas of our home. On more than one occasion I found her sitting quietly in the dark. A lighted cigarette would cast a shadow over her face; causing her to look forlorn. In these rare moments, I caught a glimpse of the real woman who gave me life. Never knowing how to reach out to this stranger, I remained in the shadows. I'd stare at her, feeling as though I were intruding on a private moment not meant for children.
These were the times I found most troubling. These private moments where she'd hide herself from me. When she'd retreat into the recesses of her mind and think the thoughts that I was not privy to. She never gave up her secrets. On several occasions, during the brightness of the day, I'd ask her what she was thinking. She'd gently shake her head and tell me to go play. My mother's thoughts were private. She held me at a bay with her cloak of secrecy that she wrapped herself in. This woman, who I loved dearly without limits, never let me get to know her. She was always a title. She was a mother. A mother who held her daughter at night and worked for her family during the day.
As an adult, I can appreciate her for what she was. I talk of how hard she worked. How independent she was. It wasn't easy raising two children on her income. We were her job, just like the convenient store that she traveled to everyday. We were her responsibility.
The years have not been kind to her. She is sick. Both physically and mentally. Time with my mother drains me of any strength that I have. The personal attention that was denied to me as a child is heaped on me as an adult. My mother has turned from an independent woman to a clingy patient. It is hard for me to deal with the hand that life has dealt her. Try as I might, I can not help but long for the days of the reclusive woman she once was. The only thing that I know to do is be there when she calls. Answer her questions. Listen to her rants. Tell her I love her as much as she needs to hear it.
In the mean time, I make sure not deny my own children of attention and time they require. However, I find myself retreating into the hidden spaces of my mind. I catch myself taking longer in the shower; driving home slower than need be. I now know why my mother hid from us like she did. It was the only way she could keep that part of herself sacred. That part that lived way before a husband or children barged into her life and stole from her what she couldn't give. The part of herself that isn't a mother. The part that isn't a wife. That beautiful part that is her.
A woman. No title.