Mothers Day Without a Mom
Mothers Day with no mom.
"Where's my mother?"
My grandmother was busy cleaning the kitchen, her dress swishing back and forth as she moved from one side of the narrow room to the other.
"She's dead" she said off handedly as if she just told me to sit up straight or close my mouth when I chew. I stood there for a moment in confusion. I was only 6 years old. I wasn't all that certain what death was.
A good minute must have passed when I finally blurted out "Well, is she coming back?" as if dead were a place and she were just visting.
"Nope" my grandmother said flatly. And there was nothing more to be said. I didn't have a mother. I had no idea where she was. She was just dead and she was never coming back. Although I really had no idea what this meant or how I was supposed to feel, I felt sad. I felt as if I were missing something, but I didn't really know what it was. It was an emptiness and at the age of 6 I had no words for it.
I decided that Donna Reed was my mother. I watched every episode so intently it was as if I were actually there. I lived in the perfect house with her and her perfect husband, Dr. Stone and Mary and Jeff, her perfect kids. I had always wanted a brother as I only had an older sister. We lived our perfect little lives in our perfect neighborhod where mishaps and wonderful moments happened every day. And when Donna Reed was over I would suddenly feel sad and alone.
Later when i started school it didn't take long to realize that everyone had a mother. Everyone in my first grade class, second grade class and third grade class had a mother. In the 60's you were hard pressed to find kids without moms. Kids without dads, yes, as Vietnam may have left the family without a father. But mothers were plentiful and it only made me feel more left out and different.
But it was Mothers Day that was the worst. Making macaroni presents or paintings for our moms. I made them anyway. Not wanting to feel freakish around my peers I acted as though I had a mother, just like them. I even talked about her making her up as I went along. Of course she had an uncanny resemblence to Donna Reed.
It was my year in fourth grade that I made a hot plate for Mother's Day. Since by now most the kids knew I was being raised by my grandmother and father I stopped talking about my Donna Reed mom. They all knew I was making my hot plate for my grandma. I painted it all black with a roller and wrote Happy Mothers Day on it in white paint in my best penmanship. Ofcourse it was just another relic that ended up in the back of the highest kitchen cabinet. Years later when my grandmother found it, she didn't even remember I had made it for her and commented on the nice hot plate my sister had made her.
When I was 10 my father married my stepmother. She was nice and pretty but young and not particularly interested in raising my sister and I. While I liked her very much I still considered myself mother-less. It was around this same time my sister and I found out our mother wasn't dead. My grandmother had told me that because she didn't know how to explain to a 6 year old that her mother was a party girl who didn't really want her. This was worse. She was alive, she just didn't want me. Mother's Day found me wondering where my mother was and if she would ever look for me.
And so this went, year after year, through my tween years of barrels full of acne cleansers and insecurity to my teen years of curves and boys. Every mothers day I would buy little tokens and gifts for my grandmother and stepmother and wonder what my own mother was doing. Did she have more children? did she ever think of my sister and I? Why didn't she want us? What did she look like? Would I be a lousy mother as well?
Then one day it stopped. It just stopped. I must have been around 19 or 20 and Mother's Day came and went and I didn't think about her. Not at all. Many years passed and I had made it a habit to NEVER think of my mother on any given day. Not longing, not loving, not wondering, curious, painful, nothing. She didn't get another second of my time.
Until I was 24 and my sister called me at work "I found mom" she said excitedly.
"Mom who?" I asked immediately confused.
"Mom you nut, our mom".
My sister proceeded to tell me how she easily had found and contacted our mother and where she lived and that she was going to see her next week, did I want to come?
There was no way I was going to let this opportunity pass me by. This was my chance to come face to face with the person who had caused me so much pain by their absence. This was a chance to answer many questions. This was the woman who never got one of my Mother's Day Macaroni presents, or painted and glued paper plate art pieces I had painstakingly worked on for nobody.
I understood years earlier that mothers were very special. And if you grew up without a mother you had a hole in your heart. It was a hole that couldn't be filled with anything else. Neither my grandmother nor my stepmother or anyone could love me the way my mother was supposed to love me. A Mothers Love could not be duplicated. The hole would never be filled. Not even by my own mother.
Meeting her did not instantaneously make her my mother. It did not really work out like one of those reunions on TV and even when I see those I wonder, "yes, it's all nice and touching but what happened LATER".... We connect with people strongly in our formative years. My mother and father separated when I was around 12 months old. I never had those years with her. Something necessary was missing.
I realized my father had loved me enough for both of them and I was grateful for the wonderful and fulfilling relationship I had with my dad. I felt blessed to be so incredibly loved. My best friends moms set excellent examples as loving, selfless mothers and I have taken a great deal of what I witnessed from them and incorporated it into mothering my children. Bringing my kids food on a platter is from Mrs. Kuhn, and surprising them when they come home from school once in a while with a present on their beds is from Mrs. Abbatiello. Rosie O'Donnell once said that people who grow up without mothers are the best moms because they want to be the mother they never had. Now, I am not so sure I would go that far, but God knows we try so hard to bring that happiness to our children, that we had longed to feel when we were young.
I don't hate my mother, blame her for anything or hold any ill will toward her at all. She is just another person struggling through life like the rest of us. She has her story as well.
I am much older now with children of my own. Mother's Day is not a day of pain or avoidance. I am the mommy and my children are my life. They come first in all things. Everything I do and every decision I make revolves around my children.
While I am someone who likes to experience everything personally, this is one experience I will just never know. I will never know what it is to have a mothers love and attention and involvement in my life. And thats okay, because the rest of my heart is so full, you can barely tell there is a hole there at all.