In your daughter’s eyes
“You have your mother’s eyes, high cheek bones and big smile,”is what others tell me when I show them a picture of my mom. Inwardly I cringe, wanting to give them a snarky reply, but instead I politely thank them and immediately change the subject.
I am not a fan of Mother’s Day. Why did someone have to come up with a day to cause angst, guilt and a whole whirlwind of emotions that I already have 364 days set aside for?
It all started about 58 and a half years ago in a town far, far away….
My mother was 34 years old when I was born, but by that time, she already had four other children. I was not the first-born. I wasn’t the first girl and I didn’t even have the benefits of being the last child. (the kid that is always the cutest and the one that gets a car to drive to school when he turns 16, instead of walking two miles everyday like everyone else did)!! But I’m so over that.
My younger brother stole my dim spotlight just two years after I arrived.
Understandably, my mother was quite overwhelmed with six children, four of whom were boys. I blame her frustration on my five other siblings, though, as they were very rambunctious and argumentative. I, of course, was a perfect angel, compliant, quiet and easygoing. At least that was the way I saw it and I am always right about these things.
Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending on my age at the time) my mom didn’t have a job outside of the home. She was home for us kids 24/7 x 18y = y x 7 divided by 24 x 18y. y = ALL THE FREAKIN TIME! As a preteen, I didn’t have many objections to having my mom at home everyday. I would play outside until I was hungry, then run into the house where my mom had a tuna sandwich made with fresh baked bread waiting for me. Some days I would help her bottle fruit from the trees in our backyard and when we were done, she would sit and read me a story. Everything worked out great…until I turned thirTEEN.
I can’t actually say that it hit right on my thirteenth birthday. I think nature plans the hormonal nightmare years to be a surprise to the parents so they can’t plan ahead to have their kids shipped off to another country on their 13th birthday. Instead they wake up one day, ask the kids an intrusive question such as, “How was your day?” and the teenager responds with the rolling of the eyes, leaving the parents to wonder, “Who are you and what did you do with my daughter?”
When I was in high school, I wanted to come home, sit in my mom’s chair and watch Dark Shadows, both things which were forbidden in our house. (I was really a “rebellious”child). I also wanted to bring my boyfriends home for make-out sessions, but you can’t do that with a mom in the house. It kind of ruins the mood with her eyes on the both of us the whole time.
My father was the “patriarch” of our family, but in name only. We all knew who the real patriarch was though. Us kids would run to my mom and ask her if we could do such and such, she would respond with, “Go ask your father,” to which he would always respond with “I don’t know, go ask your mother.”We quickly learned how to save time by cutting out the middle-man.
Growing up, our religion made all our decisions for us. Teaching us kids about god was mom’s most important mission in life. If she failed at raising us “properly” (as defined by our church), she felt herself a failure as a mom. Sundays were for church, reading religious books and relaxing. TV, shopping, movies, swimming and everything that was any fun at all, was restricted to the other days of the week.
Prayers on Sundays increased from our normal 3 prayers a day on weekdays to at least 6 on Sundays. First Sunday of the month was called fast Sunday, which I found it ironic that they were called “fast” because when you were hungry, time went on forever. When we reached the age of eight, we were required to fast for a full 24 hours. I didn’t realize, or even see it as an option, to sneak food on those days.
One particular Sunday, that was not a fast Sunday, my mother felt that we should fast and pray for my oldest brother who was away at college. He had just bought some wire rim glasses, a sure sign that he was going the ways of the world and down the road to hell. He still wears those classy wire rim style glasses today so I guess our prayers didn’t work and I starved myself for nothing. He, however, is one of the nicest and most Christ-like person I know.
When I changed my religious views, it put distance to my mom’s and my already distant relationship. My mom and I never argued — there was no point. My mom, as did others who saw us together, assumed we got along great. I had learned early to keep my mouth shut on touchy subjects. I never opened up about personal ideas or feelings. I mostly stuck to things she wanted to talk about and avoided anything that would cause any kind of conflict. Like my dad, I was a pleaser and did not want to cause any waves.
On the outside, I appeared to be content and happy. On the inside however, the relationship was tearing at my soul (ironically the very thing my mother wanted to “save”). I never felt I could measure up to what my mother (i.e. the church) wanted me to be…perfect.
Twenty-three years ago, my dad passed away and I was devastated. My dad was my hero, the kindest man I ever knew. I knew he loved me and loved me unconditionally. After he died, the family dynamics changed. Our family get togethers became less frequent and we all began to notice my mother beginning to have problems with her memory.
About six years after the death of my father, my mother’s memory became bad enough to where she could no longer live safely at home. My oldest brother volunteered to have her come and live with him. Once when I was visiting my mom at my brother’s home, she came up to me and said, “I think I’m older than you, aren’t I?” She was also surprised that my last name was Wyler and that I lived in Sacramento, the same place she had once lived.
To some, it might hurt seeing their aging parent not able to recognize their own child, but for me, it did not feel like much of a loss. My mom never really knew who I was anyway.
When my mother passed away nine years ago, I was surprised by the mixed range of emotions I was experiencing. My mom would no longer read to me, ask me how my day was and I would never again smell of fresh cooked bread in our home.
My mom was in no way perfect, but I realize that I expected her to be. I was positive all my friends had that perfect, tireless, loving mom that I heard about in church and my mother did not measure up to my expectations of what a mother should be.
I understand now though that a perfect mother does not exist. (Ask my kids.) My mom did the best she could. In her daughter’s eyes though, she helped to create a beautiful, loving and caring person.