Mom died nearly three years before I met Laura Brown.
At the age of five, I knew that my mom didn’t handle social situations with the best choices. For many of my growing-up years, I purposely distanced myself from her whenever it was possible at church, school functions or even in stores.
Yet, I needed my mom. While she washed and I dried dishes, I poured out the pain of my girlhood insecurities. Most often on that list was the love-hate relationship with one of my classmates. While Mom offered advice, it never seemed that she understood the heart-ache and self-loathing that long-standing relationship inflicted on me.
I grew up, married my high school sweetheart and left home. Somehow over the years, Mom and I managed to find equilibrium of function. Yet most of the time, it felt like she thought I was an extension of herself, a product of her superior knowledge and mothering.
As my daughters grew older, I began to work outside the home. While we needed the extra income, I later realized that part of working was to shield my life from “consumption by Mother”, like hog farmers have to separate the piglets from the sows. “Gotta get to work” was one phrase that guaranteed my exit from her back door.
Following a brain tumor diagnosis, Mom’s drama queen personality was even more expanded. Looking back, I realize that “out of sight, out of mind” was her reality, but at the time, all I saw was that her demands for my time increased. Middle of the night phone calls saying she knew she’d be dead by morning. An early call the morning I was to sit for my comprehensive master’s exam, berating me for putting education ahead of family. Demanding we sit with her all afternoon in a room that was a stifling ninety degrees with no fan because she was cold.
I secretly hoped the doctor’s prognosis of three years would be shorter, as I was exhausted even in the morning. Every night after teaching piano lessons, I went to her room to help her get ready for bed. On nights without piano lessons, I often brought her to our house for supper and then took her in for the bedtime routine. During this season, Mom reminded me often that I fell short of her expectations.
After seven months of care in hospitals, care centers, daily visits to her home, and outings to places she had never wanted to go before, God called her home. The task of cleaning out four floors of accumulated news clippings, junk mail, pack-rat stores of disposable bags, thrift store clothing for never-begun tied rugs, printed emails, reams of sermon notes and carbon copies of letters and card that she had sent over the last forty years stretched out in front of us.
After sorting through piles, discarding fourteen cattle trailer loads of refuse, auctioning three loads of household goods, sending two hundred Bibles to a mission in Africa, donating fifteen garbage bags of clothes to the thrift store in which she bought most of them, furnishing several grandchildren and friends with selected furniture, dishes or books, and nearly filling a small room in my home with family pictures and history, I felt a sense of relief. I packed the box of my emotions about my mom up on a shelf and made a passing promise that “someday” I’d bring it down and deal with it.
Nearly two years had passed and I was not ready to open Pandora’s box!
Until Laura signed my copy of her book, “Everything That Makes You Mom”, and asked me to share a story about my mom. Tears formed so quickly that I had no chance to hide them. The pain roared in like a prairie blizzard. My head responded, “She did the best she could,” but her best still didn’t feel like enough for me.
But Laura’s gentle voice and genuine concern gave me the courage to open her book and my own Pandora’s box.
Bit by bit, I’d read a page or two of Laura’s book. Her memories and questions help me to look more objectively at my mom’s life.
Instead of pure pain, Laura’s words patiently prodded at the good things that Mom DID do.
Most of all, Laura’s book has helped me reflect on my own mothering. My four daughters are grown and two granddaughters are nearby to cuddle, play with, and nurture. Laura’s reflections have helped me to listen, consciously lowering defenses, when confronting my human, mess-making attempts at building healthy, honest relationships.
God is using Laura’s book to help me make choices about what I remember about my mom. Though she wasn’t perfect, she did the best she could.
Available at http://www.lauralynnbrown.com/book/ or your favorite book site.