Sunday, November 9, 2008

Learning About My Mother

I think this is one of those things that if you've had the ability, you've taken it for granted, and if you haven't, you've yearned for the opportunity. I speak about learning about my mother. I fall into the latter category, for almost two decades ago, my mother died in a fatal car accident. I was only a teenager at the time, and up until that very moment I learned of her death, I was one who took for granted all the things I could have learned about, or learned from, my mother. That all changed in an instant, and I went from an ingrate to one who still wishes that she could ask her mom just one question. I am discovering that all is not lost. For my mother, imperfect as she may have been, left clues about her in every memory, every item she created, and even me.

Now a mother of five myself, little things come trickling to my mind. It is as if I sit on the fence, seeing my parents point of view because I now am in their shoes, at the same time seeing my children's point of view, reflections of my childhood. It begins with closing off the master bedroom as off limits to the kids. My parents did that. I remember thinking of that room with great interest as a child, it was one of the few places we would rarely, if ever, be allowed. As I send my children out of my room, my room is now not just my bedroom, but a sanctuary, the one sole place in the house that I can block out the rest of life. As I do this, I put myself in my mother's shoes, and think what I feel is the same things she might have been thinking: sanity, just five minutes away, just a little peace for a moment.

My mother seemed to have a hand for doing anything and everything crafty. She would sew, crochet, macrame, or knit, without patterns, and create beautiful life-like paintings. She created new verse to a song, wrote poems and even her letters seemed profoundly worded. Then she would turn around and create a work of art through calligraphy, art in leather, or through burning wood. I felt I gained some, not nearly all, the talent in creating works that she did. I suppose in the years since her death, some of the reasons I have tried to learn or do better on my talents was to learn a little more about her.

So, it's Christmas coming up again, and although I don't fancy myself a real seamstress, my family has put up with my attempts at clothing and bedding that may not be straight, or square. The good news is, that practice is actually making me better. I also have one of those mathematically thinking minds, that given enough information, I'm dangerous. So, I'm going to attempt to get three quilts done by Christmas, partly because we need bedding. It's not my first, or even my second, so newness isn't the problem. But I am going to be working with scraps and material I already have, without buying any new, and that's where it gets tricky. So I try to wrap my brain around how I'm going to put it together. First, I wanted to get the right size, and funny enough, located a blanket my mother had sewn for me several decades ago.

I look at the stitches tenderly. They are not all straight, there is a small permanent fold in the fabric where the stitching went awry, but all in all not terribly bad. I see the ways she got around splicing fabric, making the end product look nice, and even saving on batting. I never noticed any of those things on my beloved blanket when I was young, and perhaps it is because it isn't a big deal. However, the most amazing thing about it all, is that I, too, improvise and settle for less than perfect. I also do cool things that are way over my head for the oldest few and then rethink as I realize how many kids I'm going to have to do it for. This leads me to simplify and even cut out things for the younger ones. I want my children to have all that I can give them, but I get tired, and reach my limitations. Suddenly I feel for my mother, who even had more children than I, and pray someday my children will understand my good intentions, even though things don't work as nicely as I wish.

Through this stage of life called parenting, I often think on my own childhood, my thoughts, my tender feelings, my stupid behaviors, and mostly on my parents. Watching my children mimic my childhood causes me to wish that I had been more of an angel, that I would have been easier on my parents. And yet, my mother still loves me, as I do my own silly kids. Even though I may not be able to ask my mother that question, I think I already know what she would say. You see, I may not have seen it in my teens, but my mother and I are not that different, and someday, when I see her again, I think I will know her a lot better than I ever would had she been around. She is here, helping me realize I do not have to be perfect to be good, in all my faint memories, in the items she left, and even in me.