When my Mom became a mother, she must have been the least prepared woman on the planet. She didn’t have a happy or secure childhood to fall back on or any kind of example to follow. She was born in 1929 in what was once called Yugoslavia. Her mother was only around 16 years old at the time, a young wife in an arranged marriage. Shortly after my mother’s birth, my grandfather decided to emigrate to Canada where he planned to earn enough money to send for his wife and new daughter. Unfortunately, that was just about when the Great Depression was starting, and it would be at least 10 years before he could make good on his promise.
My mother and her mother spent those 10 years shunted from relative to relative with my grandmother having to work at menial jobs to keep them going while my mother was left to the care of others. When the money for their passage finally arrived they made the journey to a new country to rejoin a man who was virtually a stranger. Two years later my grandmother died at the age of 28, leaving my mother alone with the father she barely knew.
When my mother married my father it was on her 17th birthday and at that time she didn’t even know exacty how babies were made. It was left to the local priest to explain it to her. She was 18 when my oldest brother was born. The picture I’ve shared was part of a larger photo of her holding him when he was a just a couple of months old. It’s how I picture her in heaven. She looks the happiest and proudest I’ve ever seen her, at least in that moment. But what was it really like for her? I’m sure she got plenty of advice on baby care from her numerous sisters-in-law. My Dad was from a large family. Still, I wonder how confident she felt on the inside. She had to learn as she went and was literally winging it from day one. Some people think that being a mother just comes naturally, instinctively, but not every woman is a natural. Some need to work hard at it and often find themselves at a loss to know what to do. Even though these days there are so many resources available for new moms compared to what my Mom had, we are all just winging it when you boil it down to where we’re being honest.
The hurts from my mother’s past affected the way she parented. That was inevitable. I think she tried hard to give us the things she had missed out on, and she tried to experience through us, some of the childhood that she never had a chance to enjoy in her own early years. She loved to play games with us and gave us plenty of affection. There was a lot of laughter in our house. At the same time, there was a needy quality to her love that we could never quite satisfy no matter how hard we tried. I must admit that raised it’s own set of issues over the years that we’ve had to work through. You might say the odds were against her doing well as a Mom considering where she’d come from. Did she do a perfect job? Certainly not. She made mistakes just as we all do. In the end, it didn’t make any difference though. She loved us in the best way that she knew how, and we never doubted it. We know for sure that she gave the job her all, she held nothing back, and that’s the most any mother can do.
If she were here today, I’d wrap my arms around her and tell her that I loved my childhood and wouldn't trade it for anything. I’d tell her that I know she did her absolute best for us and I couldn’t have asked for more. I’d tell her that I think she was an amazing and courageous woman, a good mother, and that I am thankful every day for the life that she and my Dad made for us. I’m thankful for the laughter we shared, for the example she set as an overcomer, and for the light she brought into the world despite all she’d been through. I’d tell her I still miss her today and I wouldn’t be the woman I am if it weren’t for her. I’d tell her that she will never be forgotten, and I will always love her. Happy Mother’s Day Mom.