My mother was raised by an artist and a military man. She was the lone daughter with two, older brothers. In her family, the men were praised and favored and, while she was loved, the rigidity of her father and his unprocessed childhood of abandonment as the son of an institutionalized mother, he was unsure how to be a father to a girl and far less sure how to raise a woman. There was always underlying anger. Abandonment by a mother is always a gaping wound. Though she was loved deeply by her mother, the overpowering possessiveness and need for control of the household emotions by her father left her a stranger in a strange land. A female in a male favored home with parents who struggled to find a place for her. This, I think, left a theory of feminism where self-love should have resided. An anger and passion fueled by inequality instead of a well groomed seed of self-acceptance. This also left her with a lack of self-understanding and a struggle to define herself. After a short, tumultuous marriage to my father that produced 2 daughters, they divorced and she quickly remarried a military man. A possessive man. A controlling man. A man who needed to control her, us and the emotions of the household. And, there were two more daughters. She birthed four women. After living in a home that did not favor women. Living in a home where she struggled to find her place. Living with a husband who was possessive, controlling and terribly dark. Some cycles are hard to break.
There is a beauty in our cycles. There is opportunity for change. This is about the stage we set for our children. As artistic directors, the roles our childhoods play in painting the scenery, building the props, channeling the emotion and revealing the final product on the stage or foundation we’ve built for the fleeting years that make our children’s childhoods. It’s about creating what was lost, found or, in some cases, creating what never happened. Pulling the bunny from the empty hat. It is about acknowledging the gifts of the past to better set the scenes of the future. It is about responsibility, decisions and choices. It is about honestly acknowledging failures. It is about everyday redemption.
I am an imperfect parent. I struggle with balance. I struggle with patience. I struggle with guilt. On some days, I struggle with gratitude. I struggle to find the teaching moments in difficult days and I struggle to find the learning moments when I fail. I am doing the best I can. Some days my best is not good enough. On other days, my best redeems the gnawing guilt.
I am the product of a home with alcohol. A home of quiet, unending fear and failure. A home where what was said made for surface ambivalence and what was not said could fill the pages of sets of encyclopedias. And, now, I am the encyclopedia salesman. It is my job to take what is broken and to piece it together into something worthwhile. Something beautiful. Ashes into Zuzu’s petals.
As I set this new scene for my own four children, I am acutely aware of the parallels drawn. Mother of 4. Mother of 4. Mother of 4. I find that simply having the same number of children as my mother causes an internal panic I can not shake. Does likeness turn to sameness? Will I follow in muddied footsteps?
I often look around my yard and home at the pieces of the childhood we are creating. Library books, dolls and pirate ships. Swimming pools, sand and swing sets. Popsicles in July and fireflies at drive-in movie theatres. And, I wonder…do they know that I am creating a childhood of fantasy and wonder that was not my own? That I can not empathize with the normalcy that I have worked so hard to create? That I am a fraud. Looking at pictures, the ideas of loving families in books and on screen. The burned in my brain childhood stories of others, I am simply weaving a tapestry of childhood – Andy Griffith, pieces of my husband’s idyllic
childhood of exploration and independence and my love. My big love. Some cycles are hard to break. But, I am the creative director. I am the Sheriff of Mayberry. I am Ramona’s mother, packing their suitcases so that they are too heavy to run away. I am George Bailey looking for heavenly gratitude and redemption so that they can say, it’s a wonderful life. Vermont
|Three of my four – ankle deep in wonder.|