Mothering is a gentle art. It’s the soft hands that hold a shaking child together, that smooth sweat off a fiery forehead or hold hair back when a tiny body weathers with food poisoning. Mothering is Cheerios spilled on the car floor, tripping on legos in the night, staying up late waiting for a drunk phone call, begging for safety. Mothering is listening without judgement, hoping without input, letting go when it hurts to lose control.
My mother gave us a loose rein. She let us find our own way, while providing a soft place to land. She let us stay out, but she never slept until we were all safely home. My mother’s love is assertive and warm. As a child, it could be suffocating, she wanted so much for us. As an adult, her love is grateful. Life is so busy that I think she fears that she’ll be left behind.
How can we balance the desire to carve out our own space with the need to keep the family intact? It’s a balancing act that we practise ad nauseum. The family spirally out and back together around her magnetic force, the matriarch at the centre.
Sometimes, it’s hard to see the big picture, the depths of our dependence on her, from the inside. Sometimes, I think she forgets that she is not alone, even though we’re far. She’s actually the blossom and we are the petals that burst around, in tidy symmetry.
This year, on Mother’s Day, my mother is halfway around the world in Hawaii. The wind carries the scent of ohia lehua, the spinner dolphins leap from the sea, but nobody will be bringing her breakfast in bed. Two of my sisters have their own children and their own new rituals. I am too far to dote on her with any immediacy.
The splintering of our physical space makes it a challenge to show how much we treasure our moms. So we call, maybe FaceTime or Skype, demand a moment of direct connection. Times like this, a small gesture of love can be the greatest gift.
By Teva Harrison, Toronto, Ontario