I don’t think about my mom very much anymore. When I do, it’s usually a fleeting thought because something or someone reminded me of her—and usually it’s not a pleasant experience. People talk a lot about triggers—words, phrases, sounds that bring them back to a time of trauma. For me, it’s people. People who exhibit behaviors, mannerisms, or characteristics that my mother had are like triggers for me. It makes me uncomfortable to be around those people and I usually avoid them as much as possible.
One evening, a few days after we came home from the hospital with Jude, I was sitting with him on the couch when my daughter came downstairs.
“Mom, look,” she said. “We should give this to Jude.”
I looked at the item in her hand—a Beanie Baby-style tie-dyed bear. I recognized it instantly, though until that moment I had forgotten it existed. On the back of the bear, the logo for The Beatles is stitched and on the front:
It was one of those moments in time where it feels like everything skips—like when you’re walking down the street and miss a step. Everything around you slows and your stomach drops until you can catch yourself and go about your life as usual.
Years ago, my daughter had found this bear amidst old belongings of mine, and had claimed it for her own. I hadn’t thought about it since. But looking at it then, I remembered the day I got it clearly. I was 16 years old, and my mother had bought it for me from Spencer’s in the mall. I was obsessed with The Beatles, just as she had been at that age, and it was one of the only things we’d ever come remotely close to bonding over through our entire life together. I am an atheist, and do not believe in the supernatural. I’m not entirely sure that I believe in concepts like kismet, or karma, either… But if there was such a thing as kismet, this was it, staring me in the face. It was like she had known, somehow, all those years ago, about my Jude.
I took the bear from my daughter and smiled.
“That’s so sweet, baby. I think it’s perfect for Jude.”
There have been other moments lately where she has crossed my mind. They usually come during quiet moments when I’m cuddling Jude. I’ve idly wondered what she would have thought of him—of her grandson. Even though it is a family name and not a direct homage to the Beatles song, I think she would have loved that his name is Jude.
I was holding him, rocking him back to sleep after he fussily woke up early from a nap. “Beautiful Boy” (John Lennon) was playing from my laptop and as I looked down at him, I began to cry. An overwhelming feeling of love for my boy rose up and washed over me. I stared down at his face, snuggled close to my chest and in that moment, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my own mother never felt for me what I feel for my children. It’s not the first time I’ve had that thought and over the years since her death I’ve come to accept it more, but this time it came at me completely uninvited and ugly and it made me cry. I know she tried to love me. She did the best she could. But it couldn’t have been the same as how I feel, otherwise, how could she have hurt me so?
I rocked Jude and held him close, kissing his face and assuring him that his mama loved him.
And his mama does. I love my children so much it scares me.
In the wee hours of the night when I’m up with my newborn son, when I feel frustrated because he’s taking a long time to eat and all I want is to go back to sleep, I feel sad that I do not have a mother that I can reach out to and commiserate with. There is no maternal voice on the other end of the line to whom I can ask, “What was this like for you? Did it make you cry? When I squeaked and grunted in my crib, did you peer over to make sure I could breathe? How much did I eat? What was life like when I was brand-new?”
There is no mother who can tell me these things. Even if she were still alive, my mother was institutionalized for the first few weeks (maybe months?) of my life. She wouldn’t know even if I did ask her.
These are the times I think of her. They come randomly, and are usually accompanied by feelings of profound loss and sadness. I’m a mother with no mother of her own, and that is a very hard thing to be.