Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Name is Mama

Tomorrow is Mother's Day.

I always have mixed feelings about that day.

My mother died when I was four.  

People may not realize the deep loss and impact that single event can have on one's life.  It certainly affected the lives of my younger brother and I.  

Anchor-less.  That is probably the way most motherless kids have described it.  

The mother is a certainty, you know you belong to her.  I do not have that knowing, she died before I could remember anything.  I was barely four, my younger brother was still a toddler and a newly minted three-year-old.  We were babies.

When I was growing up on 311 Gordon Street, I felt the lost most keenly.  I had a step-mother who claimed to love me and my brother, and perhaps, in her way, she did, but we certainly were not recipients of unconditional love.  She kept me alive when asthma would cause body-jerking spasms in my pencil-thin frame.  She taught me how to keep a house and prepare a dinner table.  I learned how to present myself as a lady and speak properly.  I learned manners.  Love?  Not sure.

Maybe that is the lfielong burning questions of people who lose a mother while they are still growing up.  

The mother is the one person who is supposed to love you unconditionally.  The one who nurtured your life while your were tumbling inside the pool of her womb, being sustained by everything she breathed.  She connected you to existence.

When I was growing up, Mother's Day was a big deal at church.  Carnations were the order-of-the-day.  People with living mothers received red, deceased mothers received white.  My brother and I received a white carnation lightly sprayed with red to represent biological mother and step-mother.  I have never worn a carnation on Mother's Day since leaving 311.  

Tomorrow, I know, my children will spoil me with their show of love and gratitude for my place in their life.  I am their mother, their center, their knowing.  My youngest daughter has been telling me, in her kindergarten voice, that I am going to LOOOOOVE her present, my sixteen-year-old son gets a quiet smile that signals his approval of my place in his life.  The older sons are adults now and perhaps more completely understand the sacrifices and commitment it takes to love unconditionally.

In my soul longing, I can say that God has given me women who nurture that need for unconditional love.  I do find myself jealously looking at my friend with her elderly mother, craving that touch, that glance that only they understand.  Then I turn away and look down at my two adoring daughters who want to do and be like me.  Even when I am escaping the noise and clatter of their messes, I am blessed at their presence.

My life has been filled with women who have shaped me.  My mama-sister with her wisdom and proclamations that I can put on my big girl panties now.  My friends who give me their warmth and acceptance.  My older women friends of another race who give me the unconditional acceptance and nurture their years have developed.  My daughters, both natural and a special one, of another culture, who is just as much a part of my heart as my own, all give me a hopefulness in tomorrow and the glow of expectant joy.  

Tomorrow is mother's day.  I will pause for a moment and consider Aloyse, my beloved mother.  I will smile and in my heart sing the names of my other mothers - eDali, Colette, Gladys, Diane, Jacqueline, Josephine, Cousin Barbara, Katie, Beatrice, Flora, Mae, Rebecca, Tresa, Billie - who poured into my life.  I will remember my friends who are mothers, my daughters who will one day be mothers, and then I will remember my name...Mama.

My beloved mother

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