In my dream, someone, a young woman who used to work with me I think, asks, “How old are you anyway?”
I reply, not without some trepidation, “Sixty-seven.”
The young woman looks surprised. By the look on her face I think she’s going to say something like, “Wow. You don’t look it at all! I’d have put you 15 years younger.”
Instead, she says, “Wow. That’s old.”
Fortunately, I woke up before I did anything I might regret.
When my mother was 67 I remember thinking she was old. So I suppose it’s only fair that my dream reflect my judgements of my mother.
And then, of course, I want to justify why I thought she was old. How her tendency to cry, “Woe is me!” shadowed the light and kept her tethered to the darkness. How her ability to see accidents waiting to happen kept her from seeing the miracles falling all around.
I want to prove how, at sixty-seven, I am not like her. At all.
I don’t know if it is because it is just the melancholy that pervades this Christmas season or because my mother loved Christmas, but she has been on my mind and heart. A lot.
The other day, while on a Zoom call with a friend, I was telling them how my mother loved this season of joy. They asked, “Do you find you miss her more now that it’s Christmas?”
It was a powerful question.
Even when we lived an ocean apart, I never felt like I was ‘missing’ my mother. We never had that kind of relationship. She was not the person I called if I needed advice about life or love or career. Nor was she the first person I thought to call with good news.
I told my friend. “Even though I know regret serves no useful purpose and I know my dream of having that kind of relationship with her was just a dream, what I am feeling most is the regret that for much of her life with me, my mother felt my judgements harshly.
It wasn’t intentional. It was just the way we were together. I always felt she wanted me to live life by her rules, her way. And even though now, I can see her way was founded on love and her desire to protect me, I felt smothered by what I thought were her limitations and fears, not love. I wanted to fly free. By the very act of spreading my wings, I was saying to my mother, your way isn’t good enough for me.
It was a continual dance of life between us. My mother wanting to keep me safe on her terms. Me wanting to experience life on my terms.
And as I finish typing that sentence I glance up and see the beauty of the world outside my window.
The sky is streaked in rose and golden hues of morning. A flock of Canada Geese are floating past on the fast-moving river, their bodies turned backwards, drifting with the current. A squirrel is bounding up a tree trunk and a chickadee flits and frolics in the bush outside my window.
The world is alive with beauty.
And just like that, the sun breaks through and I remember what is true and real in this moment. The memories of my relationship with my mother are just that. Memories. They are only kept alive in my thoughts.
And I can change my thoughts.
Regret. Sadness. Sorrow. They are fleeting.
Love. Joy. Gratitude. They are enduring.
‘Tis the season. It is different this year. Quieter. Yet, no matter the times, what never changes, what endures always is Love.
This Christmas, I shall hold the Love close and let regret float away like the geese on the river. Sometimes, as it drifts off into that quiet place where memories that do not serve me well go to rest in peace, regret turns back to look at me as if to say, ‘Give me another chance.”
And I smile and wave and turn my back and return home to the one truth that cannot be changed. Can never be denied.
My mother is the miracle of life that gave birth to the miracle of me.
I am grateful for this miracle.
I am blessed by this act of love that endures and ripples out in waves of possibility and hope and joy and beauty through the lives of my daughters and my grandchildren.
Blessed are we in this circle of Love my mother created.