It is a real trick as an orphan to count the number of complex but fascinating people who comprise my family. It is remarkable to recognize how many places they filled in where my mother did not. In a challenging time in history and with difficulties of intense degree my mother picked up her several crosses and carried them forward without complaint and with terrifying fortitude. This woman could and did move mountains.
The fallout from her circumstances and her choices were not about fault. In a cauldron of depression, war, and widowhood, without the government provided cushions of today, she shouldered her load and soldiered on. Writing her troubles and triumphs I came tO see her beyond the person who was my mother, a strong and capable woman with her own disappointments, bad choices, unrealized dreams.
Seeing her from a child's point of view is very different than evaluating her as a woman looking at the woman who happened to be my mother. When I think upon the mountains she had to climb, the burdens she had to carry, I cannot see any comparison of strength in myself. I am not over-awed by her, but I am impressed by her sheer determination of will. It is possible she did the impossible.
From an early age I could perceive we did not like each other. That persisted to the end of her life and certainly colored my own. Were she alive today and even with better understanding, we'd never be friends. That does not diminish my admiration for her spine, for her bravery and daring. I still can see and grieve for the traps she laid for herself, for destructive choices that left her with even worse choices.
We are shaped by the people who parent us. Mama had a Mama. Her Mama was a world away from the same person who was my grandmother. Here, I have serious sympathy for my mother. Kids, though, don't know this stuff. Is it always the conclusion of retrospect. Hindsight is indeed twenty twenty.
And so with so much stuff dealt with and out of the way, she appears on the page like some phantom I suspect I knew was there but couldn't ever find alive. It is a very interesting process to meet the stranger who was my mother, that person who, though long gone, still influences me.