Mothers and daughters.
In the beginning, they are our Queens, ruling over the country of Motherhood with iron fists and gentle hearts. They are the women who will do no wrong in your childish eyes. They know all the answers to every question you might have. You never challenge their knowledge.
...And then, so quickly, they become the enemy. You are in a battlefield of teen angst and hormonal land-mines. There are fights, screaming, tears, threats. You tell yourself that she’ll never understand you, as you slam the door in her frowning, weary face.
Now? Now you are a woman yourself, and she is not a Queen, or an Enemy, but your Best Friend.
This is the story of mothers and daughters, and why, even if you don’t understand her, you should always listen to her. Because she loves you, and knows you best, and while she might not always be right, she is always right when it comes to you.
I am 3. There is a plant beside me, purple berries and green leaves. I am admiring the way the sun hits them, making them look violet and enticing. I wonder how they would taste. I reach out to grab them in my chubby fingers, imagining that they will burst onto my tongue like the sweet taste of summer.
“Elisabeth, no!” My mother is there, pulling the berries away from my outstretched hand, her blue eyes crackling with worried flames.
I burst into tears. “Momma, why?” “Baby, those are dangerous. You have to be careful, okay?” She pulls me into her arms, and holds me close.
I am safe.
I am 7. My body feels weighed down by the cruel taunts that are like a cloak of hatred around my small frame. Kids with slingshots aimed at my blonde hair, my skinny legs, my knobby knees, my too-big eyes. “Ugly,” or “cheddar head,” or “weirdo,” or “freak.” Those hateful words were only some of their ammo. “What’s wrong?” My mother is there, as she always is. Her blonde hair is caught up in a ponytail, but the smile on her face slips when she sees the tears on my cheeks.
“Everyone thinks I’m stupid and hideous. I’ll never have friends.” “Bits, you’re unique. One day, you’re going to be surrounded by people that appreciate you. They’ll admire your charm, and your imagination, and your words.”
“Yea, right.” But I smile anyway. I believe her. Perhaps I am naive. Or perhaps it’s just trust.
I am 17.
My mother has told me I need to stop drinking so much, and has forbidden me from seeing the man I’m in love with. “You’re too young to be this serious. You need to slow down.”
“You don’t understand anything! I hate you! Go away!” I run out of the house, leaving my mother to stand at the window. I don’t see the way her face crumples, or how my father pulls her into his arms, a wall of comfort. I don’t understand how my own words, now, are like knives that cut, making her bleed sorrow. She’s trying to do the best thing for me, but I don’t see that. I only feel anger and pain. I only see that she’s trying to destroy my life completely (she isn’t). I only see her as someone standing in my way, with her rules and her lectures and her yelling.
I forgot that, once, I saw her as a never-aging Goddess.
I am 26.
My mother and I are driving up to Ohio from Florida, for my wedding. We are laughing and singing along to the country song lyrics, wallowing in pleasure and the fact that we are now equals. I look over at her in the passenger seat, the grin blooming across her face like a wildflower towards the sun. But there is a wariness in her eyes, and a tightness in her smile, that worries me. I know her thoughts more than I know my own. She is afraid for me, wondering if I am making the right choice. Now, though, I am a woman. She has told me her thoughts. I have told her mine. I want her to be there when I marry the man I love.
I want her to watch me walk down the aisle with my dad, and feel the tears of joy slipping down her cheeks. I want her approval, and her blessing. She is my best friend, and so I cannot look too closely. I will see her thoughts like parchment and ink, unending and never fading. And I am not ready to admit this truth to myself. She challenges me, even now. Because that is what best friends do. I am not ready.
She is still beside me, though, through my mistakes and my joy.
I am 28.
I have separated from my husband, and there is no one to turn to except my parents. I sob into my mother’s shoulder, asking again and again if I’m doing the right thing, She won’t judge me. She holds onto me, as if I am again a child, and I let myself be comforted. “What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with me, Mom?” And as if I am truly that young, uncertain girl again, my mother replies: “Baby girl, there is nothing wrong with you. You want passionate love. One day, you’ll find your love. Your panther is waiting for you. You just have to hold on.” “It hurts. Why does it hurt so much?” My tears are endless, as is her patience. “Because saying goodbye hurts. But I’m here for you. I love you, and I’ll always be there for you.”
Through teasing, teenage drama, tender vows, terminated love - she is there.
That is the thing about mothers. They will always be there for you. They love you and they know you more than anyone else ever will. They carried you in their womb and rocked you with love before you ever took a breath in this new, strange world.
Mothers will not let you down.
Mothers will confront you, and hold up a mirror to yourself when you have lost who you are. They will not always say what you want to hear. Sometimes they will say exactly what you don’t want to hear, but always what you need to hear. Mothers and daughters… There is no greater bond. And I am honored to be my mother’s daughter.