There are a few things in my life that I can’t change even if I wanted to. I was born a daughter and I have a daughter who has a daughter. I’ve spent the past few days celebrating that reality. This was the week-end of my 5-year-old grand-daughter’s birthday. And the celebration always reminds me how we came to be at this moment.
Five years ago after Georgie had Sophia, I saw my child in the role of mother. How many years had I watched her playing with dolls, carefully dressing them and putting them to bed. For the first time I was seeing her with her own real life doll.
There was no question, then or now, that this is a job she loves. Before I drove away from GE’s house the week-end after Sophia’s birth, she and I clung to one another in the driveway and wept, partly with joy of the new baby and partly with an intense sadness at the parting. With the coming of my granddaughter, the Daughter connection had been sealed.
If that sounds like some sort of weird rite of passage deal, it is. I experienced it with my mother when Georgie was born. Back in the day, only mothers could stay in the labor room. Dads could stay if parents had completed their Lamaze classes, but GE, who was supposed to be a Valentine’s baby, decided to make a Christmas appearance.
In the midst of one of those nearly there contractions, Mother, a cradle Catholic who knew minimal scriptures, quoted the part of Genesis about Eve’s punishment for succumbing to the snake’s temptation. (Really, Mother? Really? With a thousand pages of inspirational quotes? That’s the scripture you quote in the middle of labor? Now I know why Uncle Woody fired you as soon as he could afford to hire a real nursing assistant!)
I was aggravated then and laughed about it with her later. Mother’s parenting advice was like her labor coaching. “The sins of the mother, Margaret, are passed to their children,” she would say grimly when anything went wrong with GE’s behavior. That applied to everything from teething and potty training to talking back and curfew violations. (Thanks, Mom. As if I didn’t have enough guilt…)
I didn’t appreciate my mother until I had Georgie. It took a few years for it to sink in how much I scared her over the years. I’m not talking about mis-placed guilt here. I’m talking about the kind of reality that I got to confront when I did my 4th step in AA. I was several years sober before I added Mother to my 8th step amends list. If she’d been alive, she’d have said it was about time.
I’d omitted her because, in my newly sober judgemental way, I was sure that she owed me more of an amends than I owed her so we cancelled one another out and I could scratch her off the list. That kind of thinking never works in the long run.
Years later when Jack showed himself to be my son in thought, word and deed, I knew how much I owed an amends to Mother, how terrified she must have been as she watched, struggling with the helplessness of a train wreck witness. In 2004, I wrote her an amends letter, read it to her picture, and burned it, letting the wind take the ashes.
I made verbal amends to Georgie not long after I got sober. As a mother in recovery, I have gotten to make living amends to G.E. in a number of ways. We alkie moms leave our kids on this teeter-totter of insecurity. I can’t undo the past; I, however, can make a better present.
In my alcoholism, I was often physically present and emotionally, spiritually remote. My favorite amends is to be there for her, REALLY be there for her, when she wants me to be there. When I am fully present, I get to experience absolute joy. So many times in my life, my ego has eclipsed the sun.
G.E. loves making traditions. She established a tradition of our making Sophia’s birthday cake together at Sophia’s 1st birthday. I can’t find a picture of the 1st birthday cake, but I have pics of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th. Sometimes we are incredibly arty, mostly the fun is in the planning.
Oh! The funny thing about daughters? If we are lucky, we get to be mothers and grandmothers of little girls!