Wash away your fear and worry
Wash away the pain
Wrap you in the mother’s gift of love
– Shawna Carol, Mother’s Gift
My mother loved being a mother. After the arrival of her third child she dreamed of moving to a farm where she could grow her own vegetables, raise chickens, have six kids to help with the chores, and find bits of free time to take walks with an attentive and helpful husband.
My inattentive father dreamed of nothing and wanted to stay in Queens. They settled on the small, long-established village of East Rockaway on Long Island, New York, a fertile land, where promises of fulfillment grew along with housing developments, shopping malls and parkways. Forty minutes outside the city. An hour from any farmland. An in-between place at the fringe of each of their desires.
Stuck in a suburban lifestyle, with the birth of Mary and then me, a year later, my father, a man who never wanted children, and now had five, found comfort in booze.
Sometimes there were Jiffy-Pop nights by the fireplace. Sometimes there were baked lamb-shaped cakes on Easter with shredded coconut icing that looked like wool. Sometimes my mother helped me carry home piles of books from the library. Sometimes we walked on the beach together, hair whipping, bone-chilling adventures, the wilder the weather the better.
But the later years were hard for her, when she left my father after my sister Kathy was murdered, when she sold our home, when her three teenagers had no outlet for their own grief and rebelled against everything, when money was tight, and joy elusive.
I found a scrap of paper on which she wrote: “It hurts too much to love.” And with those words my mother built a wall around her heart that was hard to penetrate. No matter how hard her children tried to please her it was never quite enough.
My mother and I held hands in a complicated dance throughout her long life, often out of sync, often stepping on each other’s feet, often moving to completely different music. But sometimes the dance was beautiful, mostly when we walked quietly in nature, the wilder the weather the better. I loved my mother and I miss her. I hope that is enough.