Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day Thoughts

I'm not sure how I feel about Mother's Day.

Although, I'm the mother of two young boys, I don't feel the day is about me or the love and devotion I bestow on them.  Perhaps my boys are too young now. Hopefully, when they're grown they'll use the day to happily acknowledge my existence and maybe I'll be able to appreciate it then.  It would make sense, because Mother's Day has me remembering my mom.  I see it as her day, not mine.

But, she's gone and the day forces me to face what I've lost, not what I've found over the years.

It still feels physically "off," not having a mother.  Even after eleven years a piece of me remains missing, but it's not only physical.  An emotional connection to my past has been severed.  An older generation shares a history, a way of life my children will never experience or learn about first hand through stories, celebrations, food, and my grandparents' favorite, card games.

My boys have lost too, only they don't know it yet.

I was reminded of this recently when I came across a blue sweater and matching hat my Great Aunt Shirley, knitted for my oldest son months after his arrival from Russia nearly seven years ago.

My grandmother and her sister were quite the knitters. Growing up I remember an unspoken competition between them.  Who was the better knitter?  They were funny the way they'd check out each other's work, closely examining stitches, comparing buttons. Reluctantly complimenting the other.

"Oh, nice popcorn stitch.  If you want to go that way."

Shirley, flanked by
Mom, left and her sister Fran, both
taken by breast cancer

As a Depression era child, post war teen, my mother knew how to knit, but didn't care to. Taught under less than ideal circumstances, she found zero joy in it, but that one older generation saw it as necessity.  A way to dress warmly without spending a great deal of money.  The perfect gift for a newborn.

For a daughter's baby...

Over the years I watched as my brothers and their wives unwrapped newly knit sweaters for their babies.  Reveling in the handmade gift, not just for the love and effort invested there, but for the promise of a future time when the grown child sees it as a link to their past, the history of their women all wrapped up in pink and blue.

My mother and grandmother were long gone by 2004, when I first became a mother.

Who would knit for me?

My Great Aunt Shirley, months from the end of her life, gave me that gift.  And it meant the world to me.  As I resurrected that sweater from the drawer it was living in since my babies have grown, I knew I couldn't close the drawer on it again -- Or what it came to represent.

As luck would have it, Great Aunt Shirley's great-granddaughter had just been born and though it was blue, I couldn't think of a better gift...and passed it on.

Wrapping it carefully, I remembered the women in my life who knit, who are gone. Knowing there's no one left of that generation who can create such a gift. Giving the sweater away felt a bit like breaking the tie that binds me to them.

And I was sad for that.  Sad and a bit selfish that I no longer have those women in my life.  Those that saw me, not as a mother, but as a daughter.

I'm not sure why it seems to matter more on Mother's Day than any other day. The loss is always the same, but most days I'm too busy being a mother to consider that I might need one.

On this day, a day set aside to honor those that love us, I remember those I loved, the gifts they gave, the legacy they left behind and can only hope my children will someday understand and reap the rewards of such a history.


8 comments:

  1. Stacey, this really resonates with me. I lament what we've lost through the generations too, because of the changing world and also because of the historical undervaluing of what was traditionally called "women's work." You have done your boys AND the whole world a huge favor by honoring them.

    Katie

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  2. Stacey,
    You said it better than I did in my own post. I miss my mother so much because first and foremost she saw me as a daughter, and that's what I miss most.

    It sounds like your family has had some amazing women (including you!). I remember my grandmother trying to teach me to knit. It didn't go all that well! That blue sweater and cap look gorgeous, plus they were made with love. Thanks for a lovely post, Stacey.

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  3. Thanks for the idea of what to do with the sweaters Aunt Shirley knitted for my children. In reference to your comment about the competition between the two knitting sisters, did you know that we received three sweaters from Aunt Shirley? Presumably in an attempt to outdo the quantity of one that we got from Grandma Lily.

    Happy Mothers Day to my Sister!

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  4. Stacey, as a knitter (albeit only a few years) I found your post very comforting and poignant. You did a great job--Happy Mother's YEAR to you! :-) Lisa

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  5. A beautiful post and one that resonates with those of us for whom this day is a painful reminder of what we have lost.

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  6. Stacey,

    Thank you for visiting and commenting on my site today. Your mom and great aunt were very special, indeed. I love your blog and will add it to my blogroll! I looked at your profile, and it turns out we have a lot in common. I was rendered infertile from chemo, so I went through the international adoption process. I adopted my soon-to-be three year old daughter from China. I'm also a NY Yankees fan, being from the Bronx originally. I'll comment to your comment on my blog.

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  7. Thanks, Beth for coming by here and adding me to your blogroll. We'll have to compare notes on our adoption experiences sometime. That's another topic on which I could speak endlessly. Oh, my family is originally from the Bronx too! Although, we moved when I was two, so I can't say I grew up there.

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