My Mother

July 20, 2009

A while ago a friend of mine was interviewing me about my childhood and my family traditions. It was an exercise we did during a retreat, we were supposed to recognize the patterns, models, lessons, traditions that our family installed in us, and see how those models shaped our own life. I expected to tell the same story over again. A story of unhappy childhood, of loneliness and neglect, of having to always depend on myself cause there was no one else to depend on, on having no connection, no ties, with my family, of living in an apartment with three strangers who happened to share the same last name. As I talked, however, I realized that the story is not a sad one at all. Answer after answer came out, describing a perfect childhood. The situations I related were the same, the circumstances haven’t changed, but as I talked about them I begun to realize how perfect they were. I begun to see very clearly that the childhood I had gave me the exact space in which I could grow into who I am right now. I saw that what felt like neglect twenty years ago now seems like freedom. I saw that what felt like lack of support when I was a kid now feels like the exact space I needed to become responsible for myself. I saw that the lack of connection that was so painful to me as a child now seems like the wonderful opportunity for me to leave, to go out into the world, to explore life on other continent, to make my life the way I wanted it to be. Everything that I love about my life, the freedom to do what I want, the space to be who I want to be and how I want to be, was supported by my childhood. It didn’t seem like that back then though. When I left Poland eight years ago I felt that California is just about far enough for me to have a comfortable relationship with my parents. In fact a phone call once a year or so seemed perfectly sufficient for the first six or seven years. There was so much pain, so much make wrong, so many shoulds and unfulfilled expectations, so much anger. I didn’t want to deal with it, I wanted to leave it behind and never look back. But there were moments, small realizations that would come as I was growing. The more independent I became, the more present in my life, the less and less I needed to have parents. I remember a moment when I realized that my parents were people, just like everyone else. They did the best they could with me. It wasn’t much, but it was all they were capable of. Somewhere during those eight years I realized that I am not a daughter anymore. I am who I am. I don’t need my mother to be my mother, I don’t need my father to be my father. Sometime during those eight years I grew out of being my parent’s child. I became who I am, and all the anger went away. The blame disappeared, the makewrong was gone. What was left was a space for me to relate to my parents in any way I wish, as their parter if I wish, as their daughter, if they wish it. I didn’t like them, we were not friends, our realities were too different for that, but it was not a problem at all because I didn’t need it to be any other way. Two nights ago my mother called me in the very middle of the night. It was morning in Poland, she just left the US embassy where she went to get a visa. She called me to tell me that she got it, and that she plans to come to visit in October, together with my sister and my nephew. It didn’t come as a surprise, I knew about the visit before, I knew she had the appointment, but tonight, three days later, while bathing my dog, I suddenly realized that my mother may actually come here! My mother! My 59 years old mother who has never in her life been on a plane! My mother who is so thoroughly terrified of life that she won’t take a single step on her own! My mother who eight years ago, when I was leaving, didn’t believe that United States existed! (she KNEW it, of course, but really didn’t believe it). My mother who grew up in tiny little village, who worked in the fields after school, who raised her three brothers cause her parents were permanently drunk, my mother who makes my father deal with the simplest of situations requiring interacting with any sort of institution, this very mother filled out an online application, went to the embassy (without my father!), talked to the consul (an experience that is legendary in Poland for it’s unpleasantness), got a visa after merely 10 minutes long interview, and now she is coming to America! My mother who doesn’t speak a word of english is going to get on a plane, somehow communicate with the flight attendants, somehow find her way through international airports, and then somehow talk to the immigration officers when she arrives. My mother! And she is doing all that on her own! I realized today that, even though I am not my mother’s daughter, even though we are not friends, even though I don’t like her as a person, we are still allies in this life. We are partners here, on earth. I realized that just like she created the space for me to grow and open to who I am, fully unique and completely independent, now I hold the space for her to open beyond who she always was. Now I am here, and she will travel halfway around the world, to the place that used to be a legend.

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