This will be the first Mothers Day for me without a mother. My biological Mom made her transition last fall. I have talked about her ashes being in my studio, and having conversations with her. Honestly, we get along better now that she is gone. For those of you who don't know me, I am about to let you in on what my family already knows.
We were not close, my birth Mother and I. I called her "Tres" for the number 3. She is the 3rd generation Susan. I am fourth generation Susan . Susan #1, her grandmother was a great Susan. Susan #1 had a daughter who was named at birth "Susan Ruth." She rejected having her Mother's name and was called: "Ruth, Ruthie, and Pinky" in her later years. Pinky because her red hair turned white, and during that time and looked pink. Ruthie named my mother, her daughter, Susan Ruth. Although Ruthie rejected Susan as her name, she had no trouble naming her only daughter Susan. When my only daughter was born the pressure was great to name her Susan. But I had enough of this Susan nonsense, and named her Kelley.
Susan # 1 with #4 on her lap.
When Kelley was born, I was going to do it differently. I was going to break the family curse of motherless daughters. Starting with her name, it would all change. I was going to be the worlds greatest mom. I was going to do all those things my mother never did with me. Kelley would know I loved her fiercely, and we would be close. Something that had never occurred in previous generations of Susans. I would always want to be with her, and she would feel the same about me.
A great storyteller, and wise woman Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells a story that has always resonated with me: "The Zygote Fairy." This fairy delivers spirit babies in a stork-like manner. Flying with a basket full of babies, bringing them to their new families. Sometimes the spirit babies who are wriggling with excitement fall out of the basket and into the wrong families! These babies spend their childhoods and adulthoods looking for their true families. "The Ugly Duckling" is a story with the same meaning. I remember my Mother reading this story to me and I burst into tears crying: "I'm a swan, I'm a swan!" She shushed me and made it known that I was clearly a duck.
#3, "Tres" my Mother
Sometimes we just don't have the "right" mother. No one is to blame. It happens. I was a tomboy who couldn't wait to take her dress off. I loved dirt, sweat, boys, sex, food, and life. When the subject of me being a debutant or having a cotillion party came up at 15, I looked at my Mother straight in the eye and said:"No way, not me. You've got the wrong raw materials!" As usual, she was horrified. It still makes me laugh just thinking about it. I began my search for my real family early on.
I had many angel Moms who loved me for exactly who I was. The universe provided me with Irma a housekeeper who taught me to cook soul food, and love black slave songs and spirituals. I was given Evelyn. She was the Mom of 3 boys, one who I went to high school with. But I knew her before her sons. She worked for an architect above my Mother's gift shop. I would visit her when I was sent to the attic to get gift boxes. To my delight I found her making breakfast one Saturday morning at my friend's (her son). Before her husband died he told me Evelyn and he had a daughter who died after birth, "Susan." Which was why he never got angry at me for blocking the garage door with my car. He would have murdered anyone else who blocked the garage when he came home. Not me.
Evelyn pulling "A" in her wagon.
He died just after my Kelley was born. My birth Mother moved to North Carolina when she found out I was going to have a baby. But Evelyn couldn't wait for "that baby" as she called the unborn Kelley to be born. In her grief I was available, as she was to me. My kids called her "Grandma Buergin." She always had home made cookies. She always was available to listen. When I lost "Martin" one of the twins that were never meant to be, she knew, she held me while I screamed and cried. She told me it would always hurt: "and Susie, you are going to have to live with this and weave it into the fabric of who you are. " Evelyn pulled no punches, and told it like it was. No subject was off limits. I found my spiritual Mother.
When "A" was diagnosed with Autism I was pretty devastated. Susan # 3 wanted him placed in an institution. Evelyn wasn't even phased. She told me to take my creative artistic traits and use them to raise him. I did just that. I wish she were here to see him now. Evelyn would be so proud of him, and of me. She used to say that by the time you get your kids through the terrible twos, teenage driving, and college...and as only she could say:" to a place where you like them and they are adults--they go away." How true, Evelyn.
So how did it turn out with my Kelley? The same. Exactly the same as the generations before us. And I see the same thing happening with her son, my grandson. She's as powerless as the Susans who came before me, and her. I hope for her that she finds her spiritual mother. I wish for her to love a mother and be close...even if it isn't me. I don't want her to suffer the same heart aches I do around our relationship when her son is grown. He already feels he's born to the wrong Mother. So I guess it wasn't the name after all.
Kelley and #4
When I see those Hallmark cards syrupy and sweet, my eyes glaze over and I shut down. Don't misunderstand what I write here. It is what it is, and I am resolved and living with acceptance of this family thing we have going on. Do I wish I had a close relationship with my daughter, yes. What I learned from living as long as I have-- is this. Time marches along, and faster than I'd like. There are no "take backs." All the holidays, birthdays and special occasions are lost. For all the people who do have close mother daughter relationships: thank your lucky stars. You have a real treasure.
I don't exactly look like a matriarch. You can see I am embarrassing her, but not E.
How ironic that I am in the business of making personalized jewelry for family heirlooms. I get to know how much these adult kids love their mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, aunts, sisters. It warms my heart, and I delight in their love for one and other. When I make a necklace for a new mom I remember exactly how I felt when my daughter was born. I am all about that hope for the new generation.
So what am I up to today? Meeting my son at the zoo, and then go cart racing with a Dairy Queen dipped cone in the middle. All activities I chose. Also baking banana bread and delivering it with Buddy to a friend's mom who is very ill. I am so excited to spend this special day with my son. I will relish every second we are together. The greatest gift my children can give me, our time together.
Happy Mothers Day. To all of you who have the right mother, or had the right mother...I am so happy the Zygote Fairy got you to your destination. For those of you who fell out of the basket, like I did: keep looking.
Thanks for reading. I'm still amazed that you do.