I spent the first thirty years of my life trying not to be like my mother. But around my 30th birthday, the realization dawned that, however much I protested, we are in many ways quite similar.
My mother was valedictorian of her high school class and a Phi Beta Kappa English Literature major in college. She was married just weeks after her college graduation, and was a mother nine months and ten days after that. She then turned her intelligence and creativity into motherhood.
She wanted to write, but didn’t pursue it until after my father retired. In her sixties, she went to some writing seminars and conferences. She entered a couple of contests and won at least one prize for an essay she wrote. She joined a Questers group and researched and spoke on Eleanor of Aquitaine.
“I could never write fiction,” my mother told me a few years ago. “I don’t have the imagination.” I think she could have written fiction, though her mind works quite literally. But if she wanted to stick with writing essays, that was her choice.
Our paths through life started similarly. I, too, was a high school valedictorian and Phi Beta Kappa, though I consciously decided not to major in literature, because that’s what my mother had done. I went to law school so I could earn a living, not be dependent on a husband. I worked full-time throughout the years my children were growing up. I refused to put aside my education like my mother had.
But like my mother, I wanted to write. Like my mother, I didn’t take my dream seriously until I retired at fifty. I’ve since taken writing classes and gone to conferences, and won a few prizes for essays and stories, and even for a poem.
I’ve also written three novels (well, the third one is underway). Even in my fifties, I still wanted to distance myself from my mother in some respect, so I decided I wanted to write fiction and publish novels. I’m still working on that goal.
During this week leading up to Mother’s Day, I reflect on the similarities and differences between my mother and me. I can smile at how similar we are in many respects, though our lives took different turns to arrive at similar stops.
But our similarities also sadden and frighten me. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years ago. She is now 79, and her writing days are behind her. She has difficulty even retaining what she reads. I worry that the disease might lie ahead for me; some of our health issues over the years have also been similar.
Nevertheless, my mother’s experience taught me that I cannot bury my desire to write. Who knows when the opportunities to pursue my goal will fade? So I write.
And I honor my mother — for what she was and is, and for what she has made me.
As we approach Mother’s Day this year, what does your knowledge of your mother’s life teach you about her and about yourself?