I’ve been a little AWOL lately as my mother, Joan, has been visiting from New Zealand. It is only the second time she has visited me anywhere since I left home in 1992 and first time time we have seen one another since my father passed away three years ago. It was also the first time she had met Kazuo. So quite a longed-for and delightful visit. It was unbelievably wonderful to collect her at Lambert Airport after all this time…but SO SO much more difficult than I had imagined to leave her there on Tuesday at the end of her visit.
I knew that having Mum around would make the days fly by…and so they did. In a flurry of little outings, playgrounds, coffees, shopping and long cups of tea during naptime.
Kazuo took to Nana quickly, after a morning of shyness, he was soon following her about, feeding the koi at MOBOT with her,
waking her up in the morning and cuddling up with her for stories or a little Here Comes Science.
There is something quite astounding about mothers. You never stop needing your mother. If all has gone well, the nurturing and sustaining of that bond between the mother and child carries you through life. Though perhaps I feel that keenly because I am recognising the mother and the daughter within me. It has been a long journey from viewing myself as a lone entity – a daughter, a free spirit, to that transformative and often harrowing experience of becoming the one who is nurturer and provider in their very being – a mother, a giver.
I have been musing on these words:
We are, none of us, ‘either’ mothers or daughters; to our amazement, confusion, and greater complexity, we are both. Women, mothers or not, who feel committed to other women, are increasingly giving each other a quality of caring filled with the diffuse kinds of identification that exist between actual mothers and daughters. Into the mere notion of ‘mothering’ we may carry, as daughters, negative echoes of our own mothers’ martyrdom, the burden of their valiant, necessarily limited efforts on our behalf, the confusion of their double messages. But it is a timidity of the imagination which urges that we can be ‘daughters’—therefore free spirits—rather than ‘mothers’—defined as eternal givers. Mothering and non-mothering have been such charged concepts for us, precisely because whichever we did has been turned against us. To accept and integrate and strengthen both the mother and the daughter in ourselves is no easy matter, because patriarchal attitudes have encouraged us to split, to polarize, these images, and to project all unwanted guilt, anger, shame, power, freedom, onto the ‘other’ woman. But any radical vision of sisterhood demands that we integrate them.
Adrienne Rich – Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (1976)
Now, as I identify more keenly with the role she has played in my own life, I find myself so grateful for the patient, encouraging kindness of my own mother. I hope I can pass on a little of that kindness to Kazuo. I’m missing Joan terribly right now, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to have shared these precious days with her and our little guy. He still asks for Nana after his bed time books…Hopefully it will not be too long before we can replicate this family photo:
Thinking admiring, grateful and appreciative thoughts of mothers everywhere.
Happiness to you all!