Something about winter makes me exceedingly sentimental and rather emotionally fragile. It begins around Thanksgiving, escalates through February then starts tapering off, especially if March’s weather is sunny. During those contemplative times, I love going through treasured papers and keepsakes, always with Kleenex close by. The following is about my Mother who died in 1998. Telling her how much I’ve learned in the past 22 years isn’t possible, although I’m convinced she knows, so I’ll honor her with recollections of mother and daughter interactions.
“Partners,” she said. My Mother decided we’re partners. I’m not sure. Years ago such an arrangement would have delighted me. Cooking, cleaning, repairs, maintenance and sharing money matters with my Dad would have been her areas of expertise. I would have handled disciplinary matters, entertainment, and disposable income. Which could have meant a fun, frivolous, spare-no-expense childhood and adolescence for me. She would never have consented.
She believed in fostering independence, individualism, thrift and tenacity. None of that appealed to me. Except my Mother didn’t consider them choices. They were essentials which she considered primary for developing character. When I was a little kid, well, in grade school, she insisted I learn to cook, do dishes and iron. Just in case she was stricken with some mysterious malady and couldn’t take care of me. She looked quite healthy to me, and I was willing to take my chances, but she insisted I learn independence.
In eighth grade, I became proficient in social skills. More precisely, I talked frequently and simultaneously with the teacher. Such linguistic endeavors resulted in an “unsatisfactory” in conduct. I was not the only student whose report card was so blemished, but I was the only one restricted for six weeks from using the phone to talk to my friends. Even my Dad championed my cause. She never relented. It was an incredibly long six weeks for all of us.
She insisted I write thank you notes for gifts received, reduced my allowance for tasks poorly done and required a generous portion of that allowance be given to church. She taught me her version of economics for teenagers. I could discuss any topic with her. She would put aside her anger or disappointment in my behavior and listen. I knew she wouldn’t be pleased, but was confident of her support. She provided input and encouragement while allowing me the freedom to become my own person.
Our choices were not always compatible, which frequently led to spirited discussions and disagreements. As I matured, married and had children of my own, our challenges lessened. She provided me fine examples of compassion, determination and independence as her roles in life changed, especially after my Dad’s death.
Eventually our titles of mother and daughter, and all they signified, blended together, making it less obvious who was helping whom. She liked the concept of being partners. It was a word for her that signified trust, equality, confidence and love. Some of her fierce independence was greatly compromised as poor health created various challenges for her. I regret she never met my grandchildren, but I am grateful for the 50 years she was a loving and essential part of my life. I will always miss her and my Dad, whatever the season.