The mother that I am…
Today, I would like to take a little time to honor one of the women who made me the woman and mother I am today, my grandmother, who I called “Nanny”. While she did not raise her children alone, like I’m doing, she overcame a great deal of difficulty to raise children who were strong, healthy and, for the most part, well rounded. She taught me to be strong, and not give up, when I really wanted to, and, if nothing else was around, to would give me a few “good kick in the pants” when needed.
My Nanny was one tough nut, and more to the point, she was also the wisest, and one of the most loving people I know. Still to this day, 10 years after her death, she is still my hero.
My nanny grew up in London during the blitz and was forced to leave school when she was 14, because schools were no longer open during the war. When the war was over, she was married with a child, my mother, but that never stopped her. She went on to raise 4 children, in 2 different countries, and while she did not do it without my grandfather’s help, she did do it without her own family around to help her. My grandfather worked very long hours to support his family, and to build his company from the ground up. He landed in this country with a wife and two children, and not much else, not even the job he was promised when he arrived. By the time he was 43, he had the American dream and all that went with it. But, it was in those early years, when my grandparents did not give up, even when they wanted to; when they had achieved what they had work so hard for, that they never forgot where they came from.
As a child I remember stories of how my Nanny struggled to feed her children at times, not eating herself until they were finished. She would hope something was left over. And then too, when she arrived in America, the land of dreams, she cried for years in private, because she was so home sick. But that still, did not stop her from showing up to motherhood, and in the end showing up for herself. By the time I was old enough to sit at the kitchen table and eat, I remember her telling story after story of how she and my Grandfather overcame great odds to have the life and family that they did. Looking back on all those conversations, I know that she would only have the best advice for me now, as I walk through single parenthood today. For me, she was the person with the answers, even when I did not like to hear them, and sometimes I didn’t. But, she was never wrong…. not even about that boy in college who I thought I could never live without. Well it turned out she was right. He is long gone and I’m still breathing.
I wonder at times if I will ever be able to be that voice of clarity, understanding, and love for my child, as my grandmother was for me…that voice of certainty… because I still struggle with certainty within myself. I wonder how she ever did it, all those years, with no one there to guide her in a new land. These are questions I would like to ask of her, and many other questions too, like, “What is love?” and “What makes a marriage really work?” So, if I ever have the chance, and am brave enough to marry again, I might have some idea what I’m doing. I had no idea the first time around. But, I can’t since she has been gone for many years now. At the same time, it seems like only yesterday, the night that I was jolted awake at 3 am in a blind panic, and then hearing the phone ring 10 minutes later, and then standing there in the dark of the living room, and my uncle telling me she was gone.
Some things just never leave you…
So with the passing of another March, and time putting another year between my Nanny and I, I want to take a moment to honor those who came before us…the good, the bad, and the ugly. We all come from somewhere, and those who raised us and came before us, do have a hand in who we are today…who we are as mothers. So, if you had great role models like I did in my Nanny and want to emulate them, or you didn’t, and you want to do just the opposite; Realize that the past still shapes the future, and honor the lessons learned from your own childhood, whatever they are. If you can do that, you’ll be fine.