Motherhood, mothers, daughters,

I wasn't always a grateful daughter. Growing up my mother focused more on my older sisters and when it was my turn it was mainly her standing on the top of the stairs screaming, "You're drunk" while I denied it. Then my best friend was killed, my first love crashed and burned, I tried to ask for help and my mother panicked and waved around a butcher knife screaming, "You're perfect, you're mine, go upstairs, I own you." I walked across the street, hitchhiked into town, called one of her friends, found a housesitting job with a pool and spent the rest of that summer smoking pot and lying in a rubber raft, crying, drinking, calling the ex while drunk and contemplating suicide. At the end of that summer I went to Dublin to study at Trinity College and slowly regained the will to survive.

It took another 6 years or so for me to get sober. During that time I graduated from college, worked, moved to Sn Francisco, took many drugs, had awful boyfriends, good and terrible jobs and my eldest sister, my hero, my support, my mother's first-born, amazing mother of Henry, PHD candidate whose intelligence and wit was unequaled, was hit by a drunk driver while walking across the street and after a week, she died. It was possibly the darkest time of all, lost, dazed, bitter and finally, in my case, drunk again and then married to someone who slapped me around, someone I barely knew and didn't love. My mother, however, rallied and put on a Martha Stewart wedding because this is who she is, was, will always be, a woman who makes the world more beautiful even if that world lacks any sense. She is a brilliant architect who attended Harvard when there was only a tiny handful of women in the field. She made our clothes, she transformed spaces, she never looked down.

As her daughter, it was a difficult role model. I called her the "Trojan Woman" and when my sister's memorial service devastated everyone she, the mother, hyper-ventilated and didn't cry. But a few weeks later I surprised her waking up and she said, "I had the most beautiful dream. I dreamed I lost my right arm but Catherine was still alive." There were bad moments. Buying me a coat, divorced and broke, I chose something flattering and stylish while she insisted on a gray loden catholic schoolgirl number I hated, waving the credit card and saying, "It's my money." I wanted to walk out but I was broken and it was winter.

When my amazing son was born after 72 hours of labor, I called her to tell her and in the sweetest voice she said, "You have fallen in love, Molly. Nothing will ever be the same." She was right. And she was right when I cried about my non-breastfeeding son not latching on, when she told me to give him a bottle. When my second husband shamed me about not making enough money she told him he had no right to do that, that I was a writer and it was his fault I was unemployed because I had to keep leaving jobs. She came down to Dallas where I was gradually losing my mind, getting blonder and crazier and told that same husband, "Get her out of here."

When my  second marriage was ending she did nothing but remind me how much I'd already survived and also how much I'd accomplished. She was uncritical and yet did not attack the father of my child because she knew I would always love him and that her grandchild needed to feel we still loved his father.  I recognized how rare this was when other friends experienced similar situations and their parents chose sides or told them they were failures or simply withdrew. She never withdrew.

And now, in my third marriage we've had a terrible year with issues around money, step-children, work and the economy. We just visited my parents and my mother spoke on the morning we were leaving about how she had said certain things to my current husband about our situation and also why I deserved better. It occurred to me that no one in my life had loved me so consistently or fiercely and, with some exceptions, loved me for exactly who I am. A toddler who had amazing temper tantrums, a troubled adolescent, a lost young adult, a struggling recovering alcoholic, a mother, a wife, a writer and finally, an adult. I could only wish to be the mother she has been to my own son. My love for her has always been there. My worst nightmare as a child was that she had died and I had to look at her. But now I realize that all of this, the rage, the fear, the struggle to find my own identity, the neediness and now the pure white love for exactly who she is has been necessary. At 87 I know she won't be with me forever. And when she said, very uncharacteristically, "please come home more often," I promised I would because I want to.


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