Once upon a time, there was a young woman. Aged 28, married to her second husband. Pregnant with her fourth child. She wasn't in love with her husband--maybe she never had been.
Twenty-eight. 28. Looks younger when it's numbers, doesn't it? Married to a man she didn't love. Mother to 4 young children. Money was tight. Days were hard. Was this what she had dreamed of when she was a girl? Was this how the rest of her life would be? Wasn't there something--ANYTHING--she could do? Maybe....
Her solution--while not one you or I might choose--was to leave. Dole out a couple of the children to relatives. Leave the youngest two with her husband. Get away! Just get out!
She eventually married again. A man who might not have been a knight in shining armor, but they had 47 years together. And now--almost six years after his death--she still mourns him and misses him every day. She had four more children. Money was tight. Days were hard.
That fourth child? The one she gave birth to at age 28? That was me. By the time I was six months old, my mother was gone. My father struggled to care for me and my half-brother, but it was too much for him. After about a year and a half, my brother went to live with one aunt--I went to live with another. For a time, he and I lived next door to each other. I saw my mother occasionally when she would visit. To her credit, she never tried to be my mother. Either she didn't want to confuse me or she realized that ship had sailed. I called her by her first name.
When I came home from my first day or two of first grade, I was telling my aunt all about a new friend I'd made. I distinctly remember stopping mid-sentence and asking her why all my friends had a mother and I didn't. She replied that I could call her mama if I wanted to. So from that day forth, she became my mama.
However. I never got over the longing for my--and I hesitate to use this term, but in this case it truly applies--real mother. Why didn't she keep me? Why didn't she stay? What could a baby have done that would make her leave--and leave me behind? Why didn't she want me?
I grew up. I got married. I had children of my own. Four in five years. Money was tight. Days were hard.
I still wanted my mother. The one who had given me life. The one people told me I looked just like. The one I didn't see for over 20 years. The one who didn't call or write or contact me in any way.
Then my daughter died. When we walked into the funeral home, the first flower arrangement I saw was from her. The hard shell I had built around my heart to protect it from her rejection cracked a little.
Two months later, she came to visit my aunt. I went to see her. It seemed time for healing on both our parts. I got out of the car. She stood up. We walked toward each other. She gathered me in her arms and gave me a mother's hug. One I'm not sure I'd ever experienced before. That crack in my shell grew wider.
In the ensuing four years, we've visited, phoned, and written. So much healing has taken place. I know now that leaving was not easy for her. Staying away from her children was not easy, but what she felt she needed to do--for us. If she could change things, she would. She loves me. I know she does. And I love her. My resentment and hurt are gone. She didn't reject me. Not once. She did what she thought she needed to do--for me. What was best for me was the worst thing for her. But she did it. Because that's what mothers do when they love their children.
Today she turns 81. I want to wish her a very happy birthday and give her what I hope will be a welcome gift. Later, I will phone her and when she answers, I will simply say "Happy birthday, Mom".
Linking to Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chatting at the Sky