I’m feeling like a free woman. Speeding up 295, headed to Princeton to see another emancipated mom, NPR blaring and no baby on board. It’s almost feels like I’m not a mother. I’m not anything to anyone. I am alone, blissfully alone.
And then I tune in to Terry Gross, who is interviewing Bob Morris, author of Assisted Loving, a memoir about double dating and finding love along side his 80-year-old widowed father. Morris is charming and witty, but it’s not his lighthearted banter with Terry that has me leaning in to the dashboard. It’s what he has to say about how this experience transformed his relationship with his father.
He stopped fighting back.
It’s not easy to do. I know. For years, at then end of each visit, my mother would kick the Jewish guilt into high gear. “When are you going to come see me again? You never come to see me. You’re always running. Off with your friends.” Or worse, not saying this to me, but saying it to whoever happened to be standing next to her…a relative, a colleague, a stranger. And me, always taking the bait, “MOM, I’m here right NOW.”
It’s quite a thing to be able to stand there, and smile, and say, “Mom, you’re right. It HAS been a long time. I’ll be back next week.”
Motherhood has changed my daughterhood. Permanently.
I have never appreciated my mother like I did the first week after I gave birth. My vaginal hematoma rendered me unable to sit, barely able to stand, and incapable of holding my child. My mother lay next to me in bed and woke up every 11/2 hours to hand me Sophia to nurse. She undressed her, changed her diaper, and roused her when she was too sleepy to feed, moving her little limbs chanting, “Exercises, exercises, babies need their exercise.”
She did without being asked. She anticipated what I didn’t know I needed. She taught me without condescension. And when I cried tears of gratitude she said simply, “Melissa, I’m your MOTHER. It’s what a mother does.”
She bore me. She raised me. I loved her. I left her. And now I’m back. The arc of daughterhood.
I see Sophia’s trajectory laid out before me…and I can picture myself framed by the doorway to our house, watching her walk away, and choking down the question of when she’ll be coming back.