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Finding My Mother Again

This morning Greg let me sleep in a bit while he got up with the baby. Then around 7:30 Vera woke up and crawled in bed with me. It’s so rare that the baby isn’t with me that we had a few moments of special time together. She was cold from having kicked off her covers in the night and she snuggled into me. “Make me warm, mama,” she said, and I squeezed her close, still half awake.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I never anticipated the physical closeness that would come with having a child. Sometimes, at the end of a long day, I find it cloying, but most of the time it’s something that I cherish, all too aware of how brief this part of our lives together will be. “Promise me we’ll always snuggle?” I asked Vera, knowing that it was a promise she could never keep, already imagining her in ten years resisting my hugs, just as I did with my own mother. “I promise,” she said, nuzzling closer.

“I miss my mom,” I said then, not knowing if I meant to say it out loud or not.

“It’s okay, mom,” Vera said. “You’ve got me.”

And she was right.

The few times I voiced missing my mother to Veronica, this has always been her response. I wonder how she knows. I wonder how this little girl of three years old knows that indeed she has made my mother’s death okay in a thousand ways. Whatever gaping, gasping hole my mother’s death left in my heart, Veronica has filled and overfilled and stretched to fill some more. The hole is still there yes, but it’s so full of love and life and realness that you’d almost never be able to tell that it was a hole in the first place.

And in becoming a mother I’ve seemingly resurrected my own mother. I hear her every day in my own voice, and I don’t just mean that I sound like her. I mean that I startle myself, that I sometimes wonder if it isn’t her speaking right through me. That the very essence of my mother, and probably of her mother and her mother’s mother, reach right up through my bones, flood through my blood and skin until they become light and air and sound; my mother’s voice hanging in the air of my living room on a sunny September afternoon in Santa Monica.

And so when I say I miss her, and when my daughter responds that it’s okay, for the first time in fifteen years, it really is.

17 Comments

  1. SO beautiful and emotional to read.

    Comment by Emily Page on October 1, 2012 at 8:30 am

  2. Claire – this is beautiful – I can only imagine. Something I find quite interesting and somewhat science-y is that because we are women: When a female baby is first created, just a fetus – she is created with all the eggs she’ll ever have in her entire lifetime, so when you were that egg inside your mother, you were actually inside of your grandmother… just as Veronica was inside of you when you were first created, she was also part of your mother.

    Comment by antonia on October 1, 2012 at 8:30 am

  3. That is so beautiful and special. I think one thing that made my mother’s death so traumatic and lasting is that I never did have children. Worse the remaining family members pulled away from everyone else, including each other. We had an unusual circumstance of losing not only my mother but three of her siblings within 6 months of each other. They all died of cancer. We were also seperated by an ocean. They were all in the UK. What I’ve had to learn, and still am learning, is to cherish life as it is and rebuild and enjoy what I’ve got instead of searching for that which I do not. I still think if I were married or had a family of my own that things would have been easier but I think my reality is that I had to/have to get to that special place where I can live, love and accept the moment before I could be at a state to have someone else. I just realized this is somewhat off topic so I’ll stop now.
    I do think that special place with your children is SO SPECIAL and I think it’s great that you’ve found that and the peace inwhich it brings. Mozzletov.

    Comment by Tony Martin on October 1, 2012 at 9:05 am

  4. This is so beautiful. Maybe your mother’s soul has been reborn in Vera somehow.

    Comment by Old School/New School Mom on October 1, 2012 at 10:11 am

  5. Wow!

    Comment by Esther Bradley-DeTally on October 1, 2012 at 10:22 am

  6. i really can’t get over your heart. it’s like you write what i feel but can’t express…
    i tell my kids to promise hugs forever all the time. btw…i’m sobbing right now. xo

    Comment by leah on October 1, 2012 at 10:30 am

  7. The physical closeness — ah yes. What a lovely and delicate way of conveying that feeling all moms much remember (I certainly do) of being totally *mauled* by one’s kids. Apart from the sleep deprivation, and the mental exhaustion, the simple fact of being climbed over (over and over) all darn day when they are little like that is just exhausting. I watch my own kid juggling and man-handling his now toddler, and rejoice that I was once young and strong enough to do that too. Fortunately, he no longer actually squirms and pushes and clambers to get away if I am hugging him and something more interesting comes along ;-)

    Comment by Carroll on October 1, 2012 at 10:33 am

  8. I love this, Claire.

    Comment by Stacy on October 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm

  9. Yes, being a parent makes you immortal. Oh yes, you will have to step aside when your time comes, and let the later generations come through, but parents have a sense that it is not the end. You will participate in the future, but not in an active role.
    So now, as a mother, you see your mother’s death in a different perspective while being gently and wisely comforted by your daughter.

    Comment by Paul Tredgett on October 1, 2012 at 11:16 pm

  10. This is beautiful to read. Vera is so special. I like Old School/New School Mom’s thought about your mom’s soul being reborn in Vera. Who knows.

    Comment by Liz on October 2, 2012 at 2:50 pm

  11. It is one of the best things we are given, the healing of our children.

    Comment by Maggie May on October 2, 2012 at 5:17 pm

  12. I love.

    Comment by Lyssa on October 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm

  13. This was beautiful. My mom died when my oldest child was just 7 months old, and I don’t know how I would have handled it, if it hadn’t been for him. I really, really, loved this piece–it found me on a day when I am missing MY mom. Thank you!

    Comment by Crazed in the Kitchen on October 9, 2012 at 6:42 am

  14. Beautiful. It’s amazing how the love of our children can (mostly) fill up that gaping, bottomless hole of grief.

    Comment by Liz @ PeaceLoveGuac on October 9, 2012 at 6:57 am

  15. This is simply amazing. You captured so well how children can help us cope/overcome/heal from the loss of our mothers. From a fellow motherless mother I say thank you.

    Comment by thedoseofreality on October 9, 2012 at 9:50 am

  16. Gorgeous.

    Comment by Jillian Lauren on October 11, 2012 at 8:43 pm

  17. Claire, I lost my mom when I was 26. Two years later I had to have a hysterectomy. Two years after that I finally got lucky, met my husband. Got married and we decided to adopt a child from Romania. When Sam was 3 we had seen a woman with a club foot in a dinner. He looked at her but didn’t say anything. When we got in the car I talked to him about the woman who had a problem with her leg. How everyone is different and that we should always try and not stare etc. Then I explained to him that my mom had been sick and her leg made it hard for her to walk. All the sudden I missed her so much I just started crying. Sam said “don’t cry mom, you’ll see her again”. It was so profound. Yes, I know I will see her again. Just wish he could have known her.

    Comment by Ellen on February 5, 2013 at 8:20 pm

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