This week marks 18 years since my mother died. Exactly half my life ago. Every day after January 24th, 2014 will mean that I have been alive longer without her, than with her.
My mother, my beautiful, glowing mother. It seems impossible that she’s been gone for so long.
Almost two decades later, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it.
For a long time I didn’t understand how I could feel that way. I chastised myself for continuing to miss her so much, for knowing that I would never not long for her.
And then I had you, Vera, and you, Jules. And I became a mother myself. I wrapped my arms around you, your little breaths hot and quick on my neck. I learned how to rock you to sleep, how to pick you up when you fell, how to make you giggle, how to make your eyes light up with wonder. I held you closer than I’ve ever held anyone and I vowed that I would never, ever let you go.
I knew then, how it could be that I would never not long for my own mother.
This bond between us — the one between she and I, and the ones between you and me — are something utterly intangible, unbreakable, and unstoppable. Nothing, not distance or silence or chaos or death, could ever undo this connection we have.
Mothers are mysterious creatures. For us women, they at once anchor us and support us. They hold us back and teach us how to go forth. We rebel against the women they are, and we desperately try to become the women they are. I know that throughout your lifetimes you will push and pull against me as only daughters can do.
There will be times when you loathe me, when you question every decision I have ever made, when you frown upon all the things that I am. And there will be other times in which you try to fit your very shadow to match mine, times in which you wish with everything you are that you could be me. These swifts kicks and tugs will overlap so many times that you may never be quite sure what it is you want from me.
I’ve had a lot of time to review the woman my mother was. A lot of time in which to feel angry with her, or in awe of her. I’ve adored her and despised her, even in death. Such is the nature of a daughter’s love.
Even now, 18 years after her death, I can feel her all around me, her existence inextricably linked to mine. The thing is that I couldn’t shake her even if I tried. That she lived and loved me at all, is more than enough to make her a part of my world every day. I hope the same is true of me to you.
I’ll tell you though, as I’ll probably tell you at other points in life, that it hasn’t been easy to find my way as a person, a woman, or a mother, without my own mother there to shepherd me. I have made so very many mistakes. I have had to figure out so much on my own, make things up, do things my way, because there was no one there to guide me.
My wish is that I am here to guide you for as long as I can. I hope so much that I will be here to see you enter into adulthood, to become mothers yourselves, to find yourselves in work and love and the world. There is so much future that I want with you. The good and the bad, the times you hate me and the times you unexpectedly curl up next to me years from now, long after you’ve stopped doing that.
I want the days when don’t want to talk to me, and the days when you won’t stop calling. I want the tears and the rage, the inside jokes that no one will get but us, and the secrets you tell only me. I want a million trips to crazy places, and I want mornings where we never leave the house. I want to see you fail and also succeed. I want to see you frustrated and bursting with pride. I want to see you reinvent yourself a thousand times over, twirling before me each time with renewed pride.
I want to be here every time you ever need me. I want to hear you when you most need to be heard, and even when you don’t. I want to see you even when you think I’m not looking. I want to be the force that makes you feel safe enough to propel yourself out into the world as far as you can, the tether that unspools as far as you need to go, knowing you can always return.
I want to love you for you who you want to be, not who I want you to be.
I want to always be strong enough to allow you to be even stronger.
I want you to live your grand and glorious lives knowing that you are loved every second of every day.
These are the things that my mother gave to me. These are the things I want to give to you.