There are thoughts in the heart that words cannot adequately express. Thoughts that we hold dear but never try to put on paper for fear of doing injustice to the depth of our love. Yet, the fear that we may never get a chance to express our feelings sometimes overrides the fear of injustice. And with that fear in mind, I attempt to express the effect on my life of the woman who brought me into this world.
I don’t remember the first time I met my mother. Of course I don’t. None of us do, however our lives were forever intertwined at that first moment of my being. I don’t remember the first time I heard her voice in the womb or felt her hand press on my little limbs as I stretched out inside of her. I don’t remember the first time our eyes met or the first time she held me. I don’t even remember the first few years. The years that I learned to crawl and walk and talk and climb. The years I learned that when I was hurt or sad or angry, she was the one that would always be there to comfort me. The years I learned that she would be the one that would cheer me on through all the trials of growing up and her faith in me would lift me up on my darkest days. I don’t remember the seed of our relationship, but its fruit is the core of my being.
I grew up as a happy little girl in a happy home. I found myself doing what most little girls do. I watched my mother and soaked up what a mom was supposed to be and do through her actions and words. I did not yet speak the same language as her, the language of woman, wife, mother. I spoke as only a child can. She listened but spoke as a woman, a wife, a mother. Yet somehow she understood me. It takes a rare kind of person to understand so many languages. She crossed our language barrier through late morning snuggles, kisses for bumps, and a heart full of compassion. She loved me despite my childish ways, she loved me with uncompromising empathy.
As I grew, she led by example. I learned to be patient with the impossible, trust in goodness and hope for mercy. I learned alongside her how to bake cookies, wash dishes and sort laundry. She showed me love despite my hormonal attitude. She showed me forgiveness despite my sulky teenage angst. She showed me bravery in the face of her health trials. She showed me courage when she trusted in His will. Yet we still spoke different languages.
Eventually I left behind the teenage angst, the sulky frown, the overly philosophical outlook on life and I discovered what my mother knew all along. Our relationship was beautiful. It just needed nurturing. And so we nurtured it together. By that point I had finally begun to speak one of the languages my mother spoke: the language of woman. I understood better who she was and why she did the things she did. She had understood me all along. I spent my college years falling in love with a best friend I didn’t even realize I had. We spent late nights doing puzzles, eating chocolate, giggling over funny accents we used to talk to each other. We spent our days dashing off to the library, sharing our mutual affection for books or hours in the bookstore debating over which book we would read together next. We stayed up late watching old reruns. Sometimes we were just there together, me studying or scrapbooking, she reading or doing a crossword puzzle. We spoke the language of contentment together.
Then I met Daxson and fell in love. Shortly after meeting Daxson, Dad got transferred up to Newport, RI. I chose to stay with Daxson. And so my mother moved that fall and I’m pretty sure she took a huge chunk of me with her. I missed her. Sure I had moved away for summers before but this was the first time she had ever left me and I missed her dearly. I missed having her there at the end of the day. I missed simple chats to say nothing at all. I missed having my friend nearby. We learned the language of long-distance love.
She helped me plan my wedding from afar. She spent her spare time sewing a beautiful white dress for me. She stood beside me as I prepared to give my heart away permanently and she told me how beautiful I was. And suddenly we spoke another language together…the language of being a wife.
Years passed by and I was blessed with the birth of my first child. Mom came down to stay with me as I got acquainted with life with a baby. It may be hard to imagine, but I was so filled with pride that I truly thought that surely no other woman before me had ever felt so vulnerable, so in awe of a little being she had created. For days I imagined myself as if I were the first person to have ever given birth because surely if this is what every woman felt, the world would seem a little more magical to each of us. But the world around me kept moving forward despite my newfound fascination of little fingers and toes.
And then suddenly it hit me. This is exactly what my mom felt when she gave birth to me. And suddenly, I could speak all the languages of my mother: woman, wife, mother. And suddenly, I felt a tug on the invisible bond we shared and I knew that I suddenly understood more than I had ever bargained for.
The years that I turned away from her…I felt regret. The years I was angry with her…I felt remorse. The years I shut her out…I felt shame. The years I thought she didn’t understand…she did. The years I hurt her with my words and my actions when I spoke only the language of child…I could not change.
I can only say how very sorry I am that I could not speak her languages sooner. I suppose there is not much to be done for that. It is the nature of children to speak as children. But now I come before her truly repentant, with a heart full of love and gratitude. Gratitude that she never gave up on me. She never gave up on us. She nurtured our relationship from that first moment and she never lost faith in it. She stood by me, strong and sturdy, despite the strength I often used to push her away. She never wavered. She loved me despite my shortcomings, despite my natural tendencies to act as a child. She loved me with unending patience and I’d like to believe that it was that faith and trust that opened the door to the world of languages for me. Without her, perhaps I would still be speaking as a child. Even now at 36. Even now as both a wife and a mother.
Now I have children of my own. They speak child. I speak woman, wife, mother. They talk back. They declare their hatred of me when things don’t go their way. They brush me aside for their friends. They take out their frustrations and disappointments on the one person they know will love them despite it all. I remind myself, it is the language of children. I speak the language of empathy, just like my mom did and I remember that it is my job to nurture these relationships. I hug them. I cuddle them. I sing to them. I read to them. I play with them. I learn alongside them. I teach them. I forgive them. I guide them. I love them with every fiber of my being. And I rest, content with the knowledge that this is how the door is opened to a lifelong relationship. Faith. Courage. Trust.
I am my mother.
I have learned my languages well. I have had a guide to help me speak so fluently. Woman, wife, mother. My soul is intertwined forever with hers. I speak her as I speak empathy. I hear her voice echo in mine when I practice patience. I see her reflection when I look into my children’s eyes and offer them sympathy, forgiveness, mercy. I lie in bed at night, staring up at the ceiling and pray with my entire being that if she ever leaves me here, I will still feel her love run through my veins, her lessons will still echo in my heart, her soul will still be intertwined with mine.
I have faith that it will be just as I pray.