As I watch my new-mom friends and those on their way to parenthood, I am struck by what my mother missed. The excitement I see around me is a stark contrast to mother's experience. And that makes me so sad, knowing she missed the joy.
In a way, joy evaded her. From the moment she realized she was pregnant with me, she started praying sincerely and fervently. All she wanted was a daughter. A girl she could teach what she hadn't been taught; a girl who would be all that she thought was good; a girl who would fulfill all of the dreams she couldn't fulfill. She prayed for a second chance. And technically, she got what she prayed for: a big headed, bald girl. I cannot say I was her dreams come true. That would be the underlying theme of our relationship; her larger than life dreams that came crashing into the reality of my mediocrity. Almost all of her energy was spent helping me be perfect.
A few years later, she gave birth to my brother in a foreign land, far from her husband and family. That he was on the brink of death for seven years robbed her of youth and joy long before she approached thirty. It never occurred to her to enjoy the moments of triumph, the quiet times where death didn't loom over our home or the small accomplishments that brought my brother closer to real life. To her, motherhood meant fear and anxiety--and she embraced her destiny whole heartedly. She was sure she would be rewarded with tranquility. Someday.
When my youngest brother was born, he was healthy, cute and dazzling. In our own ways, we all thought of him as the ray of light that would chase away the darkness that had entered our lives in Iowa. The problem with darkness is that it can be so dense, it can actually drown out the light. By then, anxiety and sorrow were my mom's closest, oldest companions and the possibility of anything else was inconceivable. She denied the joy that she no longer recognized, and was sure the right time would come. Someday.
Over the years, she kept pushing us to achieve what she could not. She sacrificed everything for us to have the education she never had, the marriage(s) that she dreamed of and the life she was denied. Unfortunately, 'pushing' means there is resistance. At some point, despite her best efforts, our dreams diverged casting each of us in different directions. On the rare occasion that she got what she prayed for, she didn't get the chance to enjoy it. She didn't attend any of my graduations (I have had a few), she was not by my side when I got married and she has no idea what my (few) strengths are. I technically fulfilled her dreams, but she still didn't get to enjoy any of my (minor) achievements. She is used to this disappointment, and still hopes she will get what she wished for. Someday.
No matter how many times she is disappointed, misled, betrayed or hurt, she continues to love. She loves with a strength and persistence that overwhelms me. She may love in spite of her self, but she continues to love. And hope. This is what she has given me, her only daughter: great expectations, anxiety and an almost obstinate love. We know that the rewards will come. Someday...