Dreams of My Mother

Last night I dreamed about my mother. Specifically, I dreamed that I was besotted with grief over her death, and crying in big, heaping tears. I was crying the way I sometimes want to, but seldom do anymore.

I’ve been missing her a lot lately. I’ve been wondering what she would think of me if she could see me now, a thirty-four year old mother of two little girls. It’s a hard thing, to become a mother without having one in your life. I have so many questions and I find myself wondering about a thousand little things every day.

I wonder what I was like as a baby. Did I make these faces, these sounds? Was I a good sleeper? An early talker? Did I cry a lot?

But mostly I wonder about her as a mother. Was it what she imagined? Did she love it? Did she sometimes hate it too? Was there an exact moment when she fell in love with me or did it come in grand, sweeping waves like mine does for my girls? Did she ever want to have a second child? Was I good enough for her?

A woman I went to kindergarten with had her first baby this week and the woman’s mother sent me a photo in which she is holding her little granddaughter. Her mother was a good friend of my mother’s and I sat there at my desk, looking at this photo of my mom’s friend with her first grandchild and I tried to imagine my mother in her place, holding Vera or Juliette in her arms, and looking proudly up at the camera. I tried to imagine the email she would have sent, how thrilled she would have been.

It’s at once easy to imagine, and also impossible.

Last night, Vera kept waking up from unsettling dreams, and in some weird twist of events that often happen in families of young children, Greg ended up sleeping alone in Vera’s bedroom and I ended up with the two girls in our bed. Once they were both asleep on either side of me, Jules nestled in against my side, breathing like a little kitten, and Vera with one leg flung over my abdomen, snoring like a grown man, I found myself unable to sleep. I lay there, flat on my back, these two little life forms on either side of me, staring up into the dark at the barely visible ceiling, thinking about my mother again.

What if she could see me right now, I thought. Then I rephrased the thought, aiming truer. I wish she could see me, right here, right now. Mom, mom, mom, I called silently into the night. Please see me. See me here with my two daughters, all of us inextricably linked, even though you’re gone. They’re part of you, part of me. 

And then the hardest part.

I need you, mom. I need you maybe more than I’ve ever needed you. 

The woman whom I most want to teach me how to be a woman is not here, and I wish she was.

If I’m going to be honest, I’ll admit that a not-so-small part of me thinks she would have all the answers I’m seeking. That she could whisper in my ear, just like she did when I was a girl, just like I do now to my own girls, all the secret assurances that would enable me to take a deeper breath, to feel like it’s all okay. To feel like who I am is okay.

“I love you with a fierceness that overwhelms me with its intensity,” she wrote in a letter to me once. “I promise you I will be here to see you grow up and go to college, and see your work published and meet your husband and be grandmother to your children. I promise.”

I come back to this letter every once in a while and I let my eyes trace over those words, let my entire body yearn for them to be true. So much of me thinks that because she wrote them, because those words, that promise, exists in writing, right here in her very own handwriting, then they must be true.

I can only content myself with this:

When I promise my own girls that I will see them through their lives, that I will be there for them through anything they do or become, I mean it from a place deeper than I’d ever realized existed. My promise exists in a place that transcends time, that transcends physical boundaries, that transcends whatever may come between us in this lifetime. Even death.




  • Bonnie
    Posted October 16, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    I think one of the bravest things any woman can do is become a mom without her mom. Definitely in awe of you!

  • Posted October 16, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    I relate to so many of these feelings, especially wanting (or needing) to cry those big heaping tears that don’t (or can’t) come out all that often. This was very touching to read, and I know so much of it will ring true when I have children of my own some day. Thank you for this sharing this sad and beautiful and honest post.

  • Posted October 16, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    I get the feeling that your mom IS there with you throughout all of this. 🙂 And isn’t it cool that she predicted what your life would bring? Amazing, really. I guess moms really do know everything. Also, I don’t think our longing for our mother ever really goes away. When my 71-year-old mom is stressed out, she’ll sometimes say “I want my mommy.” Although I chuckle at that, I know part of it is true.

  • Claire
    Posted October 17, 2012 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    Amazing post Claire. It brought me to tears. x

  • Adrienne
    Posted October 17, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I lost my mother ten years ago, and became a mother myself earlier this year. Living the last decade (law school, first home, marriage, etc.) without her guidance was scary, but learning how to be a mother without her? Terrifying.

    Thank you for your words, Claire. I imagine that they may not always be easy to find or to share, but they are beautiful.

  • beth davis
    Posted October 17, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Claire – your words and thoughts are heart-breaking and so raw and real. You are SO good. Your mom has to see you because she promised. I wish she was with you, too.

    My own daughter was married three weeks ago and I am so thankful for her LIFE and to be a part of it – STILL, every minute. It had to be impossible for your mother to leave you – soooooo hard, think about how hard it had to have been for her. A mother LOVES her children – fiercely that NO ONE can understand until they have become a mother and your mother was no different.

    Are you a believer? I know that you are searching for answers. Do you believe in God and that there is life after death? I am and my children are, so this brings great comfort – thinking about my own parents. The end is not the end when there is hope in Christ.

    Thank you for sharing….Beth

  • Posted October 17, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    This made me cry. Thank you for sharing who you are. You bring so much beauty and grace to the world.

  • Posted October 17, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    I love her swoopy, loopy handwriting. I know she is with you. Somehow.

  • Posted October 18, 2012 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    Claire, this captures beautifully the aspects of longing for someone who is gone. Call me crazy, but I believe your mother can see you 🙂 I feel my dad’s physical absence, but I’ve always felt he is very close to me even 22 years after his death. These are the people who raised us and shaped us into who we are today. They live on in us and we reflect them, so they never really go away.

    How wonderful that you have lasting words from your mother! How I wish I had something like that from my dad. I have only a couple of very foggy memories of him saying (in his roundabout way) that he was proud of me and thought I would make something of my life. Wow, do I cling to that.

  • Bridget
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    My daughter was two when I lost my mom, and I found
    out a month to the day of her death that I was pregnant again.
    Two months after that, I found out I was having twins, which was
    a total shock as they don’t run in my family. I could not imagine having twins
    without my mom in my life.
    My twins are now 4, and there has not been a single day in the
    last five years that I haven’t missed her. The tears lessened, but the
    yearning for her and all of her wisdom never ceases. My unanswered questions for
    her are endless, and it seems impossible to me, still, that I can be a
    mother without her guidance and presence.
    But, here we are, motherless mothers.

  • Bridget
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Your book helped me SO much. XO

  • Nadine
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    I lost my mum 1 month ago and I don’t know how to grieve her. I know that sounds crazy but I’mso busy looking after my 18 month old daughter that the only time I can really let go is when she’s asleep. Mum didn’t get to see my daughter much due to being in hospital and have a lot of the same questions you have claire; I couldn’t ask my mum because she was mentally I’ll. I miss her every single second of every single day.

  • Posted October 23, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful post, Claire.

  • Posted October 29, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I feel the same way about having an absent mother. I count on my friends, like you.

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