Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian. The Smithsonian selected her photo to represent all teens from a specific decade.
I love you.
This isn’t as simple as it sounds. Most of my friends, teachers, books, relatives have attempted to thwart that emotion.
‘Do you always do what your mother says?” “Good heavens, can’t you break that umbilical cord?” “Why do you let your mother dictate your behavior?”
When I was a young girl, my mother was a guardian/caretaker. I was made to wear clumsy rubber boots when it rained, to protect my feet and my health. Itchy woolen underwear was a necessity in poorly heated classrooms during World War II.
Parents kissed away pain, stayed up all night while I coughed, were kind enough not to shout at me for lingering too long in the sun with exposed fair skin. My mother was a caring woman, an attentive wife who also had space for her identity, and a superstar who moved in and out of roles with seeming ease.
When I got to college, in Psychology 101 I heard, for the first time, that the mother-daughter relationship is supposed to be conflict-oriented.
I liked my mother. She gave me room to develop my own interests, but instilled in me a code of ethics and values society could be proud of. During my dating high school years, she stayed awake until I was safely inside our house, yet she only left her bed to talk to me if I initiated the action. She told me nothing was so awful that I couldn’t come to her with it; that I was beautiful; and that love with a man one day would be a sharing and physically stimulating experience that would improve as the relationship strengthened. She liked me, too.
So psychology instructors said she envied my youth, was jealous of my energy and accomplishment, did not want to relinquish control or face the empty nest of middle years. They said she wanted to live through me, yet wanted me to emulate her and not be too educated, too career-oriented, too self-sufficient.
No matter that all of the above did not pertain to me; if I wanted to pass an exam, I had to mimic words spewed from a lectern.
Why are genuine feelings of love regarded with suspicion?
During the 24th year of my parents’ marriage, my father had a heart attack and died. My mother amazed me as she selflessly juggled to keep family circumstances and finances in order.
Somehow, she managed money so I could attend graduate school; so that my younger sister, then age 16, could go to college, and so that my older sister and her husband could start a business.
She gave me a wedding so lovely, it’s still sharp in my memory. She masked her emotional pain as she walked me down the aisle.
Her gall bladder came out, she had two massive heart attacks, pulmonary emboli, and open-heart surgery. Alone, still, with independence vital to her self-esteem, she returned to her quiet apartment to take care of herself.
My mother recognized the worth of each person’s life, and the brevity of same. She didn’t want to “burden her children with an old lady.” My father’s death left a void too big for another male to even attempt to fill; three decades of celibacy was her own choice.
I love her. She gave me advice when I asked yet did not insist I follow it. She cared for my children yet reminded me that they are my responsibility, while I was her child and she was interested in me more. What a fantastic thing for my ego.
She sensed when role reversal was possible and when I needed to play young-one. She was a survivor, brave even as her health declined from receiving contaminated blood during her open-heart surgery procedure. Her liver slowly failed though her heart was temporarily fixed. “Life, after all is precious,” she uttered without complaint. She represented that to her children and grandchildren.
What did I give in return? I can’t answer for her. I hope the way I live gave her pleasure as she set the example for me: my stable marriage; my recognition as a writer; my job as a college teacher of English Composition; my “being there” as a mother; my ability in sports, music, art, cooking, sewing.
I like myself. How many others feel this way?
One philosophical statement summed up my mother’s interaction with people: flowers for the living. She believed one should give literal or figurative flowers while a person can smell them, and not just have them displayed on a grave.
One Sunday in May is set aside for commercialism. Even doing that is better than saying, “Someday I’ll call or send a gift.” Someday has a way of slipping by.
My mother enabled me to have independence. Psychology courses didn’t include me in statistical surveys years ago; they still don’t.
©1985 Gannett Co, Inc. (author owns the rights)
Reprinted May 2000 “Fifty-Plus”
Reprinted May 2000 “Rochester Shorts”
Reprinted August 22, 2003, May 9, 2014 “The Jewish Press Magazine”
syndicated March 2004 via Clear Mountain Syndicate
reprinted May 14, 2010 The Brighton-Pittsford Post