If you were anything like me, (self-proclaimed awful, horrible, ungrateful swine of a teenager) then you probably hated your mother at times. Especially during your formative years.
I always viewed my mother in her attempts to protect us, or teach us something, or flip her lid when she just couldn’t handle another eye-roll, and thought she was so unfair and naive and unbelievably out-of-touch.
And, if I am not mistaken, this happened to you, too. Because I feel like it has happened to about 99% of the female population. Heck, I know it happened between my mother and her mother.
It’s just something that comes with having a daughter.
And my turn is coming.
I remember saying, “I will NEVER do that!”
I probably used that phrase for anywhere between 5 and 10 habits of my mother. (Now she is gonna call me and ask me what those 5 to 10 things were and it’s gonna be a lovely Skype meeting.)
Anyways. I saw those things and they were HUGE. They were the end-all of her legacy. But little did I realize, in my impaired teenage brain, that to have 5 to 10 things you couldn’t stand was not a bad percentage for the 100’s of other things she passed down. Through her looks, and her manner of sitting down, and the way she ordered something at the drive-thru window, and the way she sighed when she got red sauce on her shirt. (She will probably bring up those examples in the Skype meeting, too.)
All in all, I sigh the exact same way when my kids have pushed me to my mummy limit. The sigh that means “I should have been an artist and moved to Barcelona.” And I mutter under my breath in the same way when someone on the road won’t let me in. And I become completely deaf to my children when reading. Just like her.
But there are other things, too, in my life. Things I see today that I saw through different eyes as a little girl. To me it comes as a surprise when the things I cherish in my new family are the things my mother upheld for us in her own family.
Tonight, as I was loading the dishwasher and listening to Jo work her heart out on her piano, I realized I became my mother in a way that I never even knew I wanted to. But this new home in this new place felt like the home I grew up in because my mother’s habits were here.
Then I saw the way I kiss Jo’s forehead and rub her hair back before turning the light out as a legacy from my mother. I saw the egg-salad sandwiches with potato chips and watermelon as a Downing staple. And I realized that my way of saying “hm?” in a bored manner when reading is just an echo of my mother’s voice.
Then I understood that for all my youthful promises of rising above the “horrible” ways of my mother, I had become more like her than I even once feared. And it made me happy. Really, really happy. Because she was actually pretty dang good.
Moms are never gonna be perfect. My grandmother wasn’t. My mother wasn’t. And I’m not. And on and on it goes. And on and on daughters go moaning and groaning. And on and on we go, eventually realizing how ridiculous that was.
You can never really leave your mother behind. Her shadows fall on your life in a million different ways. And that’s what makes your own attempts at building a life so beautiful. Because you don’t start alone. You start with her.
And you may love it, or you may hate it, but your mother is the jumping point. And your flight is her legacy.