This is the only childhood photo I have of my mother and I together. Like this photo, our relationship is faded, tattered at the edges. Things happened in our family, horrible things, that not only burned the bridge between us, but blew it into a million sharp fragments. We carry the shrapnel beneath our skin.
My mother and I have been estranged ten years. Recently, because of an illness in the family, we spoke. It was not a healing exactly, but it was something. I turned to my friend Laura Davis, who has written books on healing families, and asked her how I could even begin to heal with my mother.
“Start where you are,” she said.
But where are we?
We are zombies, walking wounded over the scorched earth, searching for signs of hope
behind the black-grey clouds of anger, pain, confusion.
Another year comes and goes and it’s Mother’s Day again, and I am bombarded with warm, fuzzy images on TV, in ads, in magazines, reminding me of what we are not.
There is no Hallmark card that fits us.
There is no card that says this;
You are my mother
You brought me – your choice at fifteen- into this world.
My DNA and history, my roots come through you
Your toxic relationships with men damaged me and yet in the aftermath,
I saw you stand alone, and understood how a woman could be fierce and strong
My scars, my tears, my nightmares, my courage, my fire, I owe to you
You created in me a warrior woman
For that I thank you
I’d like to list the things I love about you
But I’ve never really known you
I’ve seen glimpses– in the way you love animals and children, in your spirit of adventure, in the moments when you are soft and kind and vulnerable
Those glimpses are what gives me hope
It’s taken me a long time to forgive you
for the times you weren’t there to protect me
But I’m grateful for the times you were
I don’t know how to heal this sad and broken family
I only know it’s going to take something much bigger than me to map that road
I’ve spent years making peace with the bad memories,
while trying to hold on to the good
while praying we can get it right before we both leave this planet
You are my mother.
I wish you love. I wish you joy. I wish you hope.
I wish it were different.