On most blogs about feminism there are at least a few posts about how the writer’s views on femininity were influenced by their mother. I haven’t written about my mom’s effect on my own views in part because I don’t remember ever talking about it with her. But also, I have always felt like I missed out any sort of sacred transference of woman-knowledge by going through adolescence without a mom.
She wasn’t alive for my first boyfriend or period, or my prom or my graduation- so I didn’t get to ask the big questions or hear the big answers. When she was alive, femininity was really the last thing on our minds. I spent my childhood watching my mother die. While losing anyone is difficult, the loss of a mother can be catastrophic for young girls. I just wrote a paper about the psychological effects and it’s so, so, depressing. For girls, so much of growing up is done in relation to their mother- being like or unlike her, learning from her, having another woman to empathize with. But growing up without a mother is different from losing one.
Grief destroys an adolescent’s ability to function normally. You become different from your peers in a private, painful way. You’re not even biologically/psychologically prepared to fully understand death. You are forced to deal with the permanence of death at an age when you are woefully unprepared for it. You get a taste of the life you’ll have together and then it’s all taken away.
Reading my mom’s journals, I have gotten a glimpse into the relationship between her and my late grandmother. They got to fight, she got hate her mom for her teen years, she got to be told her skirt was too short and punished when she was caught smoking…
But what I really think about when I think of what I will never have, I think of this picture. You can see my grandmother help my mother button her wedding dress, but what you can’t see is the years of squabbling that didn’t matter, the judgments they had passed on each other, the trust that had developed while my grandmother was teaching her how to be a woman.
This stolen moment is something I will never have, but the love just beyond the lens- the bond between mother and daughter- that I will have forever.