Thursday, July 06, 2006


I dreamed about my mother a few times this week. She has been dead for just over thirteen years, and I think I've dreamed about her only a handful of times. In the most recent dream she was showing me something--oh yeah, she had brought me to a big house to show me all of the little orphans that lived there. The children were very hungry and I gave them my lunch.

The dreams I have of my mother are never all that significant. Also, I have never felt "visited" by her, although people around me have felt her near on significant personal occasions. For example, when my father came to stay with us shortly after P. was born, he told me one morning that my mother had been there, had wandered around the house, and had shown particular interest in the new baby. I remember thinking, as he told me this, "Why, why, why didn't she come to see me?????? Why is it OK for YOU to know she was here, and not me?" It was especially exasperating because that was a terrible, terrible time for me, a difficult recovery (and exceedingly difficult baby), and, dang it, I WANTED MY MOMMY.

Another time others have felt her near was at the blessing of my first baby. "She was here! Did you feel it?" No, no, no, I didn't feel it. I was too busy worrying that A would poop all over his white clothes, loudly, right in the middle of the blessing. I didn't feel anything.

I do have to admit that I kind of felt her--well, not really felt her, but sort of knew her mind--on the day that we found out we were finally expecting #1. I just sort of knew that she knew, and that she was happy. That knowledge was helpful to me in the subsequent weeks when the doctor told me I would miscarry (and offered to do a D&C). I hung in there--and then A was born after all.

Someone told me once that the departed hang around us and are willing to help us out, and that the best way to communicate with them is to put our request in writing and leave it lying around so that they can see it (since they can't read our minds). I've had a few days of desperation when I've even tried that.

During the times when I yearn to communicate with my mother (which mostly means "yearn to hear from HER," as opposed to yearning to tell her something), I wonder why she didn't leave us more. She had plenty of time to prepare for her death. Why didn't she write us notes? Why didn't she write down things that her daughters might want to know when we reached certain stages?

Does it have anything to do with the fact that she was motherless for most of her life? Maybe it never occurred to her to think that my heart and thoughts would turn to her in these stages, that I would yearn to hear her experience.

Or maybe she just wasn't the kind of person who needs to share experiences and learn from the experiences of others. I don't know. I hardly knew her. She died just at the point in my life at which I no longer needed her as a mother but hadn't developed a relationship with her as a friend yet.

What are some of the things I wish she had written for me?

1. A love letter to me. All I have from her about how she felt about me is her journals, which she kept very sparsely the last years of her life, and in which she rarely talked about her emotions at all. When she was writing mroe often, I was a [very difficult] teenager at home, and her journals are full of frustrations at my selfishness. Was that all she saw me as? Did she see me improve? Did she think I would turn out OK, or was I just a disappointment to her? Does she see me now? Is she proud of me now? Would she like me? (Did she like me then?)

2. Thoughts and advice about marriage. There are lots of things she could have told or taught me, things that she learned through 24 years of marriage. This is a difficult subject to ask other people about. If you can't learn about it from your mother, whom can you learn from?

3. Thoughts and advice about childbirth and childrearing. Did she go through post-partum depression? Did she have days, weeks, months or years of depression because of the mindless boredom of it? What did she do to keep from being bored? How did she measure her success each day? What were her goals for her parenting?

4. Thoughts and advice about just being a woman, a daughter of God, a soul striving to return to Him.

Why do I yearn so much to hear these things from her? Well, first of all, I yearn to hear these things from almost every woman. That's why I read so much, set up book groups, crave time with my girlfriends so we can talk. I love to learn about other people's experiences. Some of these topics are awfully personal, though, and I don't even dare to ask girlfriends. ("So, how's your sex life?") There's one person in the world that I have a claim on, who I feel I have a right to ask the hard questions. But she's not around.

So, should I be writing my own answers to these questions in case I die, so that my own children will know my thoughts? Well, I guess so. But it's a little different for me because, first of all, I'm a much more open person anyway. I probably talk about most of these things enough that anyone who knows me knows how I feel about them. Second, I already do write an awful lot in my journals. I have so many journals now, though, that I'm beginning to doubt that anyone will ever wade through them. (I find it funny, though, that when I read back through them I find lots of love notes to my family written whenever I felt seriously ill--obviously written because I'm scared of dying with things unsaid.) Third, I'm raising boys. Face it, they just aren't likely to crave knowledge about me and my life in the way a girl would.

Maybe my curiosity about Mom comes, at least in part, from a fear that when I'm gone no one will be curious about me.

Anyway, she remains a mystery. And the biggest mystery of all to me is why she chose to remain a mystery to the end, refusing to write any of us goodbye letters or anything. I guess she felt her life was enough, that it stood on its own, without needing any explanation. That must be a pretty good feeling. I'm pretty sure I couldn't do the same. That's probably why I write.


mary ann said...

Ah, you write as someone who has already read this week's R.S. lesson. I don't know that it helps any, but Rob and his family haven't even had as many visits as yours has. Sandy hasn't come for babies, baptisms or the-meeting-formerly-known-as-a-homecoming. Rob has had dreams of her; weird 'ole dreams. Several times he had dreams where she reappeared apologetically and eventually had to go out in the backyard again to re-die. She'd lie down and they would turn on the sprinklers and she would melt down into the grass. The best one was where she said that she's now helping the children in Lebanon. Who knows? In the meantime, I appreciate your post. I know now what I need to be writing and to whom.

Ilove2travel said...

I was out riding bikes with the twins this morning and I was thinking about your post about being a stay at home mom and it being boring. As a stay at home mom for 22 years I often felt bored, as well as isolated from the outside world. I would hear about cultures where the women raised the children together and helped each other through the daily trials of life and wished for something more like that. I'd wonder if our affluence is truly a blessing.

I have trouble living in the now—enjoying the everyday. My mind is often planning the next meal, the next day, the next trip! Even on a fabulous trip I can find myself thinking of the next thing instead of enjoy whatever it is I'm doing now. Martha says she enjoys housework. How do I learn to enjoy that?

I am very fortunate to still have my mom. I love her dearly, but I don't turn to her for advice on childrearing, marriage, and definitely not sex. I'm not sure why. Perhaps pride?

I'm not a journaler (if that's a word). I've got a few things written down. But the thought of putting my thoughts and feeling down on paper is really scary to me. Maybe then someone would know that I'm not "perfect".

Maybe your mom didn't write a goodbye letter because she didn't want to say goodbye.

Darlene said...

Wow! I love both of your comments. Mary Ann, you gave me the best laugh of the week. I love her being banished to the back yard. And the sprinklers! What a great short story that dream would make.

And, Barbara, I know what you mean about sometimes wishing we lived in the older days when life was harder but there was more of a sense of community. I think there was also more of a sense of purpose, or at least a knowing what to do next. One of the hardest things for me is not knowing what to work on next--it's sort of too much leisure and not enough mixed together. I don't feel like any work is really pressing, but I don't feel like I can opt out of it. It's hard to know if I'm doing what I should all the time. The vagueness is so tiring.

I can't wait until I can just go biking with my kids like that.

I also (as you can see) always think about what's next.

Thanks for the comments.