by author Malena Lott
The classic Dr. Seuss book, Are You My Mother?, deftly (and cutely) addresses the issue of imprinting when a baby bird drops from the nest and goes on a hunt for his mother. As a writer and avid reader, of course I’d find a book to share my story.
I’ve blogged a few times over the years about being raised by my grandparents and in honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to send up extra love to my grandmother, who passed away from heart disease when I was nineteen, and urge all of you to hug, kiss, call, see your mama or mother figure. Sunday would be nice since it’s Mother’s Day but any day is good. More days, even better.
I’ve even tried to write about my feelings of abandonment and anxiety from being separated from my mother when I was four. My sisters and I were each imprinted in different ways, but let me say this, we were lucky beyond stars to get to live with my grandparents who were middle-class, loving people. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t been raised by them. And there is no “but,” no, “if only,” but you do deal with with loss at an early age some fear and confusion and wonder. I wondered what happened to my mother, why she didn’t write, why she didn’t seem to care. I wish that would go away for all children out there experiencing a similar circumstance, but likely they won’t until they are old enough to understand it’s better this way, some mothers weren’t meant to mother and some women make better mothers than the one you were born with.
I experienced a new anxiety about motherhood when I became a mother myself – and it happened to coincide with my finding my birth mother for the sake of my little sister, who was only a baby when she left. (You see the full circle stuff here? I was BECOMING a mother, being reunited with my birth mother.) And you know what? I didn’t tell her I was pregnant. I waited until after the baby came. That was a gift I wasn’t willing to give. You have to earn that grandma title. Unfortunately, she didn’t. To say things didn’t work out may be an understatement, but I choose to look at the positive: for a few years, I got to know my mother, not intimately, but I did get to see the highs and lows, and witness character traits and hear stories and share stories. And then it was over.
And you know what? That’s okay. Don’t expect the fairytale ending in life. Conflict happens. Resolutions happen – whether it’s the one we had hoped for, or not. For those of you who regular “read” me, you know I talk a lot about loss and grief and love in my books. I’m a fan of hopeful endings – they don’t have to be happy, but you just never know…keep the hope.
If you’re a motherless mother, I recommend Motherless Mothers by Hope Edelman. Although I always knew I had been shaped by mother loss (losing my grandmother at nineteen a tougher loss than the first), it was fascinating to see the reports on how it affects how we raise our children. And I have been overwhelmingly lucky to have a wonderful grandmother for my three children – my sweet, giving mother-in-law, who takes her role as grandma (and mom to me) very seriously. I love her. And I got to grow up with two sisters, who are both great mothers. We are bonded forever.
I’ll admit I have those – do you know how lucky you are that I’m here? – moments when my kids act up, but truthfully, I don’t want my reality, my history, to be theirs. I’m thrilled they get the “normal” with parents who love and support them and each other.
Thanks to all the mamas out there. I know it’s hard work, but it means the world to make that effort. Now, go take a hot bath, sip some champagne and read a good book!