My mother stands at slightly over 5 feet tall, with high cheek bones and smooth brown skin. When she’s well rested, her brown eyes have a ring of blue around the outside. Like a child’s imperfect drawing, not quite meeting the lines. She’s beautiful, as only your mother is beautiful.
Some of my earliest memories are associated with her body. The back of her leg as I try to get her attention, or the strength in her arms as she lifts me up to ride along with her on whatever task she’s doing next. The warmth of her neck, as I rest my head against hers. It’s not until I hold my son in similar ways that I am remember how powerful these moments were.
As I grew older, my mother would express her affection in other ways. Mostly, through lectures and frequent worries. She always held the belief that her children could do anything, often giving specific directions about what colleges we should attend or careers we should pursue. When I came out as a lesbian, I watched her struggle and our relationship became somewhat strained.
Then, I introduced her to my ‘partner’, a very real and likeable woman who was clearly not going away. After a year of living together, Sharlene received a letter from my mother. I can’t recall the specifics, but she essentially described her plans to be a part of her grandchildren’s lives. Please note, this was her subtle way of letting us know she expected a family. I’m surprised that my then ‘partner’ and soon to be ‘spouse’ didn’t take off running. Sharlene was very kind and accepted that building a life with me meant building a life with my family.
As I finished graduate school, had a baby on the way, and planned to buy a new house; my mother announced that she was planning to work nights in the same town we were planning to live. She changed her schedule to be available to care for her grandchild during the day. Ultimately, both she and my mother-in-law provided five years of regular childcare.
Now that our kids are in school my mother continues to provide pick up, drop off, sick days, and sleep overs. We have disagreements about discipline, food, and our decision to not enroll our children into Catholic school…funny considering our very non-traditional family. My mother is as much a part of my life now as ever, unapologetically planning for the four of us on a regular basis.
Recently I watched my daughter grab my mother legs, to be lifted in the air, and her head gently tucked into her grandmother’s neck. In that moment, whatever annoyance I felt about how I need to do this or her opinion about how we could do that, disappeared. I feel blessed. As intrusive and presumptuous as she can be, she has always acted from a place of love. I am often reminded of the continued struggle other non-traditional families have when their family of origin is less than supportive and more often hurtful.
Sharlene and I are blessed to have family, as well as friends that have become our family.