What Loving My Mother Has Taught Me
When it comes to the love I have for my mother, it is immense, otherworldly, difficult, challenged, enduring, and in line with all of those things: a contradiction. I love my mother in ways that I can shape into words, for reasons that act as a reminder to always love her even when it is hard, especially when it is hard.
But for the most part, I love her because I love her. I just do. I came from her body. I see her in the shape of my eyes and the size of my lips, the color of my skin. And even if I have my father's laugh, I think I have her smile. I see myself in her, but I think the contradiction comes into play when fear sets in from time to time at the realization of parts of her I see in me. She is the strongest woman I know, resilient in ways I don't feel most women should have to be, but perhaps that is how we are built: to endure, to bear weight of the pain of the world and hold onto it as if it is our own.
To nurture. She has done that for me my whole life. My earliest memory of her is fragmented, even as I dwell on it now, but I remember pain. I was 4 years old that night and although I didn't know anything yet, I knew she wasn't smiling warmly like I'd come to know her face. It was upside down then, somehow. Wet. She hurt but I couldn't find a mark. I had a towel in my hand and I held it out for her to dry the wetness on her face. I didn't know it yet, but it was my father's actions that caused this type of pain, and all I wanted was to take it away, like she always did for me. Her smile returned half-heartedly when she took the towel. "It's okay mama."
I've said this already but it deserves to be mentioned again that she is the strongest woman I know. She's one of twelve children and the only one to put themselves through school and graduate. She had to do so much on her own: putting herself through school, getting into a driving school to teach herself how to drive so that she could get a license and drive herself around, and then moving out of state to start her adult life somewhere new as an educator. When I hear stories of then, I am in awe of her. It grew more when I saw her raise my sisters and I on her own for the most part. I could see that it wasn't easy, especially me, I wasn't easy, but she never gave up, always fought, always gave, always supported. I'd cry sometimes because I wanted my life to be something else. "It's okay Sheriden." Did she know that feeling too?
If she did, she never showed it.
Sometimes I wonder if she's built up a wall so large to protect herself from heartache and loneliness that no one, not even her, can penetrate it and be receptive of more. I wonder if her past has scarred her too deeply, I wonder if her resilience does not apply to her love life, and wonder if one day I'll become so wounded that I'll do the same. How can anyone hurt me if I never let anyone in? I see her in me in that way, or the potential for me to evolve into that level of detachment. Where I value my emotional capacity and vulnerability so much, perhaps enough will become enough and something I love will become something I'm deathly afraid of.
But my most favorite thing that I love about her is her light. My mom has such a warmth to her, such a glow, and it keeps me near her because she's my guide in life and love. I look to her in times of support, wisdom, and awful days that require an impromptu trip to fast food at 11 o'clock at night because she knows I need to drown a little before I'm ready to swim again. I like to make her laugh. I make a fool out of myself sometimes just to hear it because her happiness is mine as I'm sure mine is hers. That smile, that light. Those parts of her I see in me -- that's love to me. She is love to me. Not only because she shaped me, but because she taught me. If I can approach my life with even half of the strength that she has, I know I'll be okay. I'll be marvelous.