Growing up, I bucked up against my mother fiercely. I felt similar to my father with my academic, intellectual habits: late nights devouring books and talking about ideas. But I almost felt scornful of my mother who was quiet and shy. She would ask me to keep my voice down in public places, and when we fought, she would use silence to win every time. In many ways I simply took my mother for granted. She was just my mother---the one who cooked meals, and drove me places. It was only after my father died that I started to get to know the woman she really is. Perhaps she too began to know herself then, differently, finally out of my father's shadow.
And, though I think my mother would say that she is still unsure of her own voice, after so many hearing my father's, she is becoming someone whose words I admire. She observes the world carefully, noticing the smallest of things; constantly connecting the big picture and the small. Since Bean, I have grown to understand that her quiet attitude of giving and her selflessness came not from lack of self confidence, but from her vast love for her children.
Last night she wrote me this:
Ah yes, Christina, you are getting it: motherhood. Nothing prepares you for it, that is one sure thing. I cannot imagine that heart surgery is more intricate or painful than the push/pull of a mother's being as it continues to form a womb around her child. A kangaroo pouch would be so much simpler! The gods give us women this incredible learning around compassion. Of course dads feel it too, but, I believe, in a different way. Their very skin hasn't been stretched beyond belief leaving memory marks. Nor has their body carried the growing weight of a child. I think men in battle, caring for their wounded, must feel a similar stretching of their being---as buddies die or are profoundly wounded in front of them. Maybe that is why motherhood, and war, have existed down the ages. There are many ways to experience this selflessness. But becoming a mother is a trial by fire.