Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Meeting my mother

Mom, 1950 - over her awkward
So.  Remember my photo album project?  It's still ongoing -- I've reached the early 1950s, and within a page or two will hit my parents' marriage, which means I'm not too far in the future.

We're still in black-and-white, BTW.

What I'm finding with this project, though, more than photographs and stories, are holes.  Holes in the stories, gaps in the photographs -- and in my knowledge.  Growing up, I always wanted the stories.  Drop me at a relative's for the day, and within an hour I'd find their photo album or box of pictures and start asking, "Who's this? How are we related? What were they doing in this picture?"

Generally, I got answers, but until I started doing this project, in somewhat haphazard chronological order due to the sheer volume of pictures, I never caught on that there were gaps.  I mean, of course there are.  There were things no one would tell a kid, and things no one thought to tell me.  There were occasions not in photos, and not worthy of mention except that they linked one thing to another.

As a genealogy project, it was kind of frustrating.  As a writer, it's fascinating.

Because I get to fill in those gaps.

When I was born, someone gave my mom a baby book.  You know, one of those nice leatherette books where baby's first 5 or 7 years of life is recorded in painful detail.  Mom wasn't good at painful detail.  There are no pictures in the book -- though she did glue in an envelope with my baby curls, and the hospital bracelet from my tonsillectomy -- but some of what she wrote has really set me back.

From the time I was small, I knew that  my mom thought the sun shone out of my ass.  (Sorry, but that's how she acted).  That feeling was followed by the knowledge that I was the best thing she'd ever done.  I even heard her say it, repeatedly, like I was a pot she'd thrown or a picture she'd painted.  She even said once or twice that my father had little to do with the whole thing.  Really?  I think he'd have been surprised to hear that.

One of the gaps - note that the bottom photo has been cut and
pieced to remove proof of her first husband's existence.
I still don't know why.
It always made me feel a little weird.  I was something she'd done.  My existence had very little to do with me, only with her.  I was artistic because she liked to draw.  I had good legs because she had good legs.  Equally, I had weak eyes and bad teeth because she had those things too.

I never felt like I totally belonged to me.

Reading over her few scrawled notes in the baby book, I'm seeing the woman who had those feelings, before they hardened into the shell that I knew.  I'm seeing a woman who was absolutely stunned by her baby, someone who had never wanted children and yet and produced what she called "the most wonderful baby in the world," who was named for "herself" and who got lots of presents "because she's perfect and deserves them."

I just met a woman who I never knew, and she gave birth to me.  After 51 years, I just met my mother.


Anonymous said...

You got something rarer than hens teeth from your ma, self worth, not all kids get told how great they are and family.and a sense of belonging is what humans crave.

Remembering parents, I have a weird feeling when I think of my dad who died at 48, who will forever be younger than I.

There's a tv series here called, Who do you think you are, where celebs trace their ancestry, it never fails to affect them emotionally, we are products of our past and when we come face to face with it it can be profoundly moving.

Nursebennett said...

While I know in my head that my parents love me, I've always wondered what it would have been liked to have parents who told the world , out loud, "hey, I love that girl!" And demonstrated it in public. I never experienced that sort of admiration. I'm so happy you have that kind of treasure!

mrsmole said...

Can't imagine what it would have been like to be loved and treasured as you were by your mom. Even now in their 90's and needing my care, my parents have never once told me they love me or are happy they had me. In fact, they say if my brother had been born first, they would have had no need to have me...cheerful thought...ha ha. Very few of my friends or clients in their late 60's can claim that their parents were ever proud of seems a whole generation of baby boomers missed that blessing.It is wonderful that you had that admiration and with some further digging you may be able to fill in the gaps. Good luck!

Marjie said...

I am using Ancestry to fill in holes in the narratives. It is fascinating. The photos are a real mess, and I need to attack them some day, but I know vast portions are missing. My childhood, for instance, is missing, unless I happened to be in a picture of someone else. And I never had a baby book, but I found my baby fork in my mother's trailer, at the back of the flatware drawer, when she died. Strange how people behave.

edj3 said...

Your post moved me tremendously. Like yours, my mother has been a real challenge. I wish I could find something like you have in that baby book to get a glimpse into the young woman she was.