"I Learned a Woman is Never an Old Woman." ~ Joni Mitchell
Mothers are People Too!
No really, they are. As I get older, I am realizing something I wish someone had told me in my younger years, when I didn’t have the wherewithal to come up with this thought myself. I was much immersed in my own life, as young adults often are. My parents were just always THERE. That’s what they did. They did whatever it is they do in their home at the lake, and they were there when I needed to get a hold of them for something. They were always interested in my life and the things going on with me, and of course their grandchildren.
A few years ago, I started watching the show The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. There is one scene in that show that really made me think about my parents, my mom in particular. The Handmaid’s Tale is about a world where everything is changed. Freedom is no longer a thing. Families are torn apart. In this one scene, the main character June is reminiscing about a time she spent with her mom on a drive. June was in the driver’s seat as a 20-something year old, and her mom was in the passenger seat. A song by Gwen Stefani comes on the radio, and June reaches over to turn it down, thinking her mom might not be into the pop song that contains a swear word or two. Then the camera turns to her mom, who, with her mature looking hand, turns up the volume on the song and puts her bare feet out of the open window, and starts belting out the song, her hair waving in the wind. She’s at the line where Gwen is singing, “This sh*t is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s! This sh*t is BANANAS! B-A-N-A-N-A-S!” She’s smiling and singing loudly, and June is looking at her mother incredulously; she couldn’t believe her eyes and ears. Her mother’s moment is infectious, and June joins in, and pretty soon the two of them are singing at the top of their lungs. June looks at her mom, and for maybe the first time in her life, she sees her mom as the young girl she once was, the young woman she was with her own hopes, her dreams, her fears, her life that didn’t always include June.
The scene brought a lump to my throat, and water in my eyes, because I UNDERSTOOD this so much. As a mother, I sometimes do not feel seen. I am looked at as just that- a mother. My children may not realize the life I had, or wanted to have, or dreamed of having, once upon a time. And yes, I need to of course state the obvious- I love being a mother, wouldn’t trade it for the world. Yet, there are parts to me that my children don’t know, stories and experiences they might be surprised to realize about their good ol’ mom. In that scene, I thought- every mature woman out there, was once a young girl, and is still that young girl at heart, and we do not always feel seen. We haven’t always wiped snotty noses, calmed tears, given out chore lists, read books before bed, listened to teenage problems, remembered the medicine at the pharmacy, made the dinners, organized lives… once we sang, and danced, and were young women and girls singing at the tops of our lungs. This is what prompted me to call my own mom, and ask her about her life. I asked her about the dreams she had when she was younger. I asked her what music she listened to, who were her crushes, what she liked to do for fun. I asked her what she thought about this, and that. What did she want to do as a career, I asked her what it was like growing up in her home and in her city. Speaking with her like this was long overdue. Making that conversation all about her and her life outside of motherhood was a wonderful experience for me, and I think she enjoyed it as well. I felt shame that I had not taken such an interest before, not really. Sure, my mom and I are close and we chat about everything; but it’s never been just about her and a life that was before I came along.
She told me about her younger days when she was a surfer girl, she and her brothers and their mutual friends escaping to Doheny Beach and riding the waves. She told me about her dreams of being a marine biologist. There were many things she chatted to me about, and it was one of the most enjoyable conversations we’ve had a in a while. She was not always a mother, she was a person aside from that, and all these years- I hadn’t given that a whole lot of thought. This conversation is one I’ll always remember, and I’m only sad I did not do this sooner. I seriously recommend doing this if you haven’t already. And if you have, keep on doing it! Right now is the perfect time, as we are in the middle of this pandemic many have nicknamed “Rona.” This is a great time to pick up the phone, or video chat with your parents if you’re still blessed to have them in your life. Time goes by so quickly, and the state of the world is changing. We are lucky to still have the ability to reach out to our families.