Sunday, 8 May 2016

Mothers, Mothers' Day, 'Good-enough' Mothers.

Mothers' Day. This is a hard day in some ways - and harder for some.  Daffodils for Mum. In the midst of a search for meaning.  

Daffodils at our cemetery - Mum, Lorne, Gram, Auntie Joyce, Connie and a wee baby from the Mission
Interesting mix - we celebrated Ascension Day along with Mother's Day today at our little church. Of those present, only Tom, our organist, has a parent still living - his Mom. Or Mum as some of us say. ;-)

When our parents die, we're IT. We grow up in ways we couldn't have imagined. Ascension Day is connected. Jesus left because we needed to grow up and carry on being compassion in the world ... 

Long ago when I was a curate in Lachine, I stood in a pharmacy while a young woman picked up her prescription. Her tiny daughter, blonde straggly hair, blue-eyes, about 2 years old was perched on the edge of the counter and was squirming a little. Her mother yelled at her, "I liked you better when you were a baby!" My heart still sinks at the memory. 

Ummm... Growing up is normal. Expected. Two year olds squirm and get more independent as the years ago by. And ummm... so they/we should. We aren't meant to stay babies. I think of a few Mums I've encountered over the years who had difficult (understatement) childhoods with Mums who didn't know how to mother, and generation to generation so it goes... 

I think of a teen whose mother lived a horror story as a child - who sees no options but to follow in her mother's footsteps. No matter how hard we've tried to tell her she can choose other options. She's smart. Really smart. Creative. Beautiful. And it's heart-breaking. 

I'm re-reading Gregory Boyle's book: Tattoos on the Heart: the Power of Boundless Compassion. He founded Homeboy Industries in L.A. - apparently the gang capital of the world. The book is full of stories. Stories of tragedies and of hope. Transformative. He quotes Leon Dufour, a world-renowned Jesuit priest (page 158) who a year before he died at ninety-nine, confided in a Jesuit who was caring for him, "I have written so many books on God, but after all that, what do I really know? I think, in the end, God is the person you're talking to, the one right in front of you." 

Our mothers? Whether here or gone before us? Other people's mothers? I think of the Mum whose son took his life a few months ago and how especially hard today is for her. 

How beautiful she was. Frances May Hamer Macgregor

Mum was an amazing woman whom I've written about in more detail in other posts. She was courageous, warm, kind, loving, fun, a role-model for enjoying people from all walks of life without judging ... Mum was also fragile and in the months before she died, told me that after Lorne drowned in 1950 she was, for the rest of her life, afraid to be happy. She understandably became lost in grief and in 1950, parents didn't know how to give inner stability to small children who were also grieving. Mum was, then, real in a very real, turbulent world.

Mum with Jim c1945. 

Mum drove Jim and me across Canada in 1956! Camping!

So, Gram, who lived upstairs, stepped in. While Mum worked, Gram was ever-present and had lunch ready when we came home from school. She was solid. I found a letter she wrote to Mum in February 1963. Mum and Dad had gone to Florida to visit Granda and Daisy as Mum wasn't well. We didn't know until May that Mum had MS - and I, an anxious youngster at the best of times, unconsciously thought she was dying. She might have been - as the doctors thought it might be a brain tumour.  Gram wrote that she made all my favourite foods and lists them - including apple crisp as only she could make it. 

Ros, Jim, Mum, Gram in our dining room on Lafayette. Why was he kissing me?

Donald Winnicott talked of good-enough mothers. 

Winnicott sees the key role of the 'good enough' mother as adaptation to the baby, thus giving it a sense of control, 'omnipotence' and the comfort of being connected with the mother. This 'holding environment' allows the infant to transition at its own rate to a more autonomous position... "The good-enough mother...starts off with an almost complete adaptation to her infant's needs, and as time proceeds she adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the infant's growing ability to deal with her failure" (Winnicott, 1953)
While none of us had perfect mothers - most of us probably had 'good-enough' mothers - and if we didn't we have been fortunate to grow through, into, and beyond ... Those of you who know me know I had a breakdown in 1975 - a breakdown that was a lifetime in the making. Breakthrough. 
My C.P.E. supervisor, Lee Udell told me once that we (being human) don't get all of our emotional needs met by one person - or even by both parents. No matter how good the parenting is. The time comes one way or another as we keep growing up and knowing ourselves, that we find bits and pieces in different people. And, of course, we become more centred in ourselves (and some might say, in God). "I found God in myself, and I loved her, I loved her fiercely." 

Today, I'm thinking back on some of the other 'mothering' people who have been in my life and helped me become the person I am.  Women and men.
Mother Marjorie Raphael at St. Margaret's Convent. I still have letters of wise counsel that she wrote to me. When I was in my profession retreat, she wrote a note - to an anxious young woman - reminding me that seagulls glide on the wind, they don't fight against it. And when, a few months later, I found I was being sent to Haiti, she encouraged me to express my feelings (remember I didn't want to go - tarantulas and all that) but that I was the only one free to go at the time. AND - she rightly knew that I would love Haiti. How different I might be if ... 
Ascension Day was Sister Rosemary's profession anniversary. She was my novice mistress, to use the term of the 60's. She apologized as easily as she put her foot in her mouth (which she did with regularity). She was loving with a huge heart and a wicked sense of humour. The last time I saw her was in New Hartford at her 60th anniversary of profession, a week or so before she died. I had the opportunity to mother her back a little - singing hymns and giving her communion. And we both agreed that, whatever may come next, love is forever.
Sister Mary Eleanor was present with me through my darkest days sitting while I cried and letting me be without having to fix me. Then while I lived away from the convent, she was Sister-in-charge at St. Monica's Home in Roxbury and made a place for me to continue to belong and grow, love and be loved.
If I had been more stable and 'well' I wouldn't have gone to the convent in the first place. So young. While I loved God, there were hidden motives like a search for security and a sense of belonging ... and how blessed I have been and am for these women (so many - I only named a few) and experiences of faith, prayer, joy, sorrow, depression, love, and healing ...  
Men and women - Jim and Sandi - my brother and sister-in-law accompanied me through hard times and then better and good times - taught me to swear (a little) and become more real. I'm still not corrupted quite enough for Sandi's liking - ahh - being too good wasn't all it was cracked up to be - nice - good girls don't do this or that. 
JTM. Lee during my two units of CPE and afterwards. Bryan - especially Bryan. Journeying with me as I've learned to be a 'good-enough mother' for myself while also developing friendships and finding support and encouragement in all sorts of ways. Belonging. Creating places where others belong.  
A number of 'good-enough' mothers. How fortunate I have been.
I wonder sometimes what Mum would be like as an old woman. She'd be 97 and died too young at 75. She was real. Sometimes I wish I could tell her how much I loved her - how I admired her courage and determination and so much more. 
I'm proud to be her daughter. And I believe she was, and would be, proud of me and the woman I've become.

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