Today would have been my mother’s ninety-first birthday. You would think I would be reminiscing about old times, remembering how well she took care of me whenever I was sick, calling the doctor for a house call and hovering over his shoulder in my fevered memory. The food she spent all day making for us, or how she was a do-er; how she could get “drunk” and giddy on just a Coca-Cola, or how she lost her first husband at the very end of World War II yet was strong enough to build a different life with my father and us.
Instead, I am spending the day wishing I could apologize. As my daughter approaches her last day of high school this week, I find myself understanding more and more about my relationship with my mom during our contentious years, discovering what she was trying to do. Time and experience wipe the bull-headedness of youth out of the picture, and I can see her more clearly.
I used to get so frustrated, so irritated that last year before I went away to college. She seemed to be holding even tighter to me, and I only wanted to take flight. As my girl does the same thing, I struggle to not want to hold her to my chest for as long as I possibly can. My mother would tell me things I already knew, give me advice I thought I didn’t need, and treat me like a child. I fought like a toddler wanting to be put down, trying to get away, only looking forward.
Mama, I understand. And thank you.