Happy? birthday.*

July 16, 2008

Today is my mother’s 62nd birthday. 

Like most women, I have a complicated relationship with my mother.  I love her deeply; she makes me crazy.  I owe her beyond counting; I mourn at what I didn’t get from her.  I marvel at what she has accomplished with her life; I despair that she has allowed herself to settle for so little.

Of all of the contradictory feelings I have about my mom, it is the push-me/pull-you of wanting to be closer,  and wanting to break free entirely, that dominates.  We talk every Sunday night, which sometimes I enjoy, and sometimes I dread.  On the “enjoyable” nights, the conversation covers these topics:  how the dissertation is coming, what sort of yard work she’s done, what sort of great food we’ve made or thought about making, and what news we’ve heard (or not) from her son/my brother.  On the “dread” nights, she talks about how her son/my brother shuts her out, and I talk about how she needs to talk to him–not me–about that.  Topics may also include her ex-husband/my father, about whom I cannot speak without literally hearing the storm clouds gather in her voice.  We have had too many of the “dread” nights.

I would like to talk to my mom about politics, or social issues, or about her life before she limited it to gardening and  church.  Basically, I’d like to talk about ideas, because I think my mom is pretty smart and that we could have some real conversations that let me get to know her as a person with complex thoughts and ornery opinions, as opposed to my mom, who teaches and sings alto and has vivid green thumbs and still isn’t over her anger at her divorce more than 12 years ago.  (That’s a whole nutha post…)

I’ve tried to nudge the conversation that way, but she has firmly steered it back into safe, shallow waters.  As it is, I feel like our relationship is incredibly limited, and limiting, like I don’t really know her.  And I fear that I never will.  I feel trapped by our artificial-closeness, and I feel estranged from the real person.  So I’ll call her tonight to make sure my card and gift arrived, and after listening to the details of her birthday dinner, I’ll hang up and heave a heavy sigh.

You never get over being a daughter, do you?

*It took me forever to write this, and I still don’t feel like I articulated my feelings very well.


One comment

  1. Um, yeah. Have you ever READ the pith that my mother leaves on my blog? I so get it. I really do.

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