I spent this past Easter with my relatives. Some time during the afternoon, I noticed one of my cousins staring rather intently at me. It wasn’t an angry, or condescending or judgemental look – but it was interested, even amused. Later, she approached me, and explained her fascination.
It turns out that she was engrossed by my mother and I – how we talked and giggled like sisters. (I recall this – actually, we were seated close to an enormous plate of cheeses. Cheese makes us happy.)
But the relationship between mother and daughter is also an engrossing thing. As the years pass that connection curls and meanders like the rivers buried inside us, an emotional circulation that feeds the blood.
When we are born, we are close – bound by the obligations of motherhood and a spontaneous affection for the tiny, dependent creature who became the center of attention without even thinking to ask for it.
Carried on that river by weariness, resentment and nobility, the new mother eventually beaches on the loving shore and prepares to stay there.
But the passage of time muscles itself between the dependencies and clutching hands, forcing the characters apart, setting them upon a wandering path.
There are obligations here too, but this time on the child’s part, feeling a compulsion to follow other influences…although there is nothing she would like more than to stay home.
Teenage years are sad and stupid, but with luck, there is some knowledge there too. And if a daughter loves her mother more than any of her – frankly inferior – fellow students, well, there is no shame in that. She is happily dependent, but the neediness must stay hidden.
It is at this time when the danger is greatest – when it is in the presence of distances. Affection is like a tethered buoy and a foolish word or spark of ill-begotten emotion can cut the line, letting the deep and busy sea carry it away. Tides flex and torment as the young person struggles in the testing waters.
But there is always a promise of help; to be given willingly, patiently and wisely. I spoke to my mother about everything, it seems to me. And I received – in exchange for nothing, I believe – the most exquisite sympathy and strength. We also went shopping a lot.
With the onslaught of adulthood, the relationship that started as one-sided, continued as a distant equation of checks and balances, became one of equality. This will allow for girlish asides, in-jokes, nicknames, and more shopping trips.
This relationship is one of degrees; emotions that read like spatial arrangements – close, distant, equal. It forms a river, that circulation that defines me. It continues, to be recognized today, along with a gratitude that is terrifying in its vastness and depth.
Mother – today is Mother’s Day, and I celebrate the distance we’ve travelled together. I love you.