July 19th, 2008

alice directions

letters from my birth mother

A few mornings ago, I saved a note on my cellphone that I intended to expand into a journal entry. This is what it said:

"At the end of bad dream, I received letters from mom that answered everything."


Even with the days that have passed since, I can recall a fair bit about these letters. First, a bit of background.

My mother and I don't have a relationship. She says it's because I called her a slut (I didn't use that precise word) but the fact is that she just doesn't want to bother with me and has never shown an interest in me, really, unless it was to her financial advantage. Or something of the sort. Long before I was aware, it has always been this way.

Some insight into our dysfunctional dynamic: as viewed by one of her sisters and the last internet convo I had with Mother - and this, all I ever asked of her.

Although I've become more accepting of the way it is, my recent dream made it all too clear that a part of me wishes things were different.

I will be 30 years old this coming Friday (July 25th). Robert Frost wrote, "Time and Tide wait for no man, but time always stands still for a woman of thirty." I'm hopeful that my best years are to come and will have no problem pushing time forward past this milestone. That's not to say I'm all too happy to see three-oh arrive already but I can take consolation in the fact that it means I made it despite all efforts by myself and circumstance to do otherwise.

In the dream, I did not see my Mother but I was handed the letters from a family member (likely my cousin Toni, who I am still in contact with and who recently told me that my Mother had been sick with cancer in her peg leg but has since recovered - no, I was not told in any other way). About these letters, they were stacked much like the string-tied ones seen from times of war or ones kept as love letters in a hope chest. They were beautifully written with words filling page after page, an ongoing story spanning the years since I was born.

My romantic wanting heart had dreamed up that although Mother is indifferent to me in real life, detached and disinterested regarding her only surviving child, she had been writing her story in letter form just for me. Recollections of all the things she has never told me about herself - from falling in love, experiencing school, mistakes and fun adventures, hopes & dreams - everything about her life, carefully contained in these letters.

This was my Mother. This was the woman, the girl, the person behind her choices, the turns of her life. This was her way, her only way, of letting anyone know who she truly is, and she had chosen to share it with me at this age. It came with the condition that nothing would change - she still did not care to know me and there would be no contact of any kind - but this, oh this was still the best gift I could ever think to receive.

It made up for everything.

In the dream, I remember reading the letters and seeing her at different ages, experiencing her emotions, understanding her and feeling closer to her than ever I thought possible. This was what I needed. This was all I needed. It was more than I could have hoped for because it meant that at one time she thought of me as someone she could share who she was with, realizing that I was an important part of herself, while letting me know quite clearly in a wonderful way that she was her own person.

Through the letters I was able to learn all the things I had never been taught. Secrets and advice Mothers have told their daughters at different stages throughout their life. Through the letters, I wasn't told that I was loved. It was still simply her writing her own story - but she had chosen me to tell it to, to care for, to know.

& so this is why I was moved enough to clumsily take note of this fragment, this dream.

"but that was just a dream / try, cry, why try? / that was just a dream /
just a dream, just a dream / Dream"

- R.E.M., 'Losing My Religion'