Mother – still – knows best
Any male or female who at my age still is fortunate to have their mother participate in their lives knows that it isn’t always easy. There came a time where I grew bigger than my mother’s opinion, which was probably around about 18 and a half.
It wasn’t until my marriage that I realised that my mother’s realities were woven way further into the fabric of my life than I ever realised. One simple example was my frustration about the way Hubby hung up his bathtowel after showering.
“You should never fold a wet towel, it can’t dry properly and will smell.”
“That’s nonsense.” Hubby replied.
And that’s when I delivered the fatal blow:
“It is not nonsense, it’s true, my mother always said so and our towels never smelled”.
There. Done. End of conversation.
Well, not quite. It didn’t take him a second to respond:
“Well, in our home we always folded towels and they didn’t smell either. That’s how my Mum did it and I’m fine with it.”
I had never considered that his mother and my mother didn’t do things exactly the same way. I mean, thinking about it of course that seems logical, but to that point I never had considered it. If Hubby didn’t do things the way I felt they should be done, I had blamed it on him not knowing better. I had conveniently left his mother out of the picture. Now, since I know that a bigger portion of society seems to have serious issues with mother-in-laws, I have to state for the record that I do not. I have total respect for my mother in law and especially in regards to her handling of bath towels she has a clean and nicely scented record. And yes, they are folded.
So there I was completely taken aback. Not so much at the fact that there may be more than one way to successfully hang bath towels but by the realisation that there may be other incomplete realities that I had inherited. I was relentless in questioning anything my mother ever taught me and in an attempt to discover my true self, shelved my mother’s wisdom.
Life does a good job at balancing out these moments of growth and as my own experience increased, I had no choice but to claim some of her wisdom. Still I couldn’t help but notice that despite the closeness we shared while living together, I not only saw us as two completely different women, but began to question, whether my mother even understood who this woman was I had become.
Until a few days ago. A rather casual conversation about a job opening at my work, lead her to go on a rant about how I had to apply, how all one really had at the end of one’s life is to look back at one’s achievements. It was obvious that in her eyes, rising up the corporate ladder was an achievement.
Getting annoyed with her obviously ‘status’-driven definition of achievement, I started to protest.
“Now shut up and listen, this is your mother talking, you said what you had to say, now it’s my time!”, was her very assertive answer.
Since I hadn’t heard that tone of voice since I was about 12 years old, I obeyed immediately. I shut up and listened. Truly listened. As open as I possibly could (while still taking debate notes).
What unfolded was my mother not only taking charge of the conversation but reminding me more accurately than anybody else in this world of who I am. Reminding me, because she realised that I had tried so hard to follow the right street signs of this life, of which suddenly none seemed to fit anymore, that I had simply forgotten not so much that I had an inner direction but what it was. She showed me my one constant in my life and I recognised it instantly.
I’m not sure she’ll ever understand how much she did for me in that moment and how close I felt. There wasn’t any doubt that we once shared the strongest natural bond there is and that no matter how much distance we’ve had between each other since, she has never left my side. Having let a few days pass since that phone call I know that all that I’ll ever classify as an achievement can and will be built on that one constant. I know she knows that.
And when I’m old and looking back on them, I’ll smile and say: I did it Mum and I couldn’t have done it without you.