Today would be my mother’s 70th birthday. An age with a strong foothold in the golden years, 70 is supposed to usher in a decade of retirement, grandchildren, and relaxation from the workaday world. It brings with it slower steps, but also, the wisdom born of having experienced much of what life has to offer — joys and sorrows, excitements and regrets.
This milestone is a strange one to consider, however, since she left her earthly existence before even turning 50. While the ensuing 20 years have provided a salve for our grief, I continue to mourn for all we have missed out on, and wonder, just how she would have fit into my adult world.
Though my mother knew and loved my husband, I was not yet married or a mother myself when she passed away. While fortunate to have had other amazing women in my life, there will always be a void.
I have never gazed in amazement at my own newborn, as my mother knowingly watched, or called her for advice about a feverish child. I’ve never vented frustrations to her over my teenagers, or endured her smirk as she watched me struggle with the same things I made her struggle with.
I wonder at questions both big and small. What would she look like with gray hair? Would she still sing along to Hawaiian music in the car? Would she be proud of me?
Most of all, I wonder what we would do together as adults.
Undoubtedly, she would accompany us to our boys’ football games, clad in matching homemade spirit shirts, and I am sure that we would share recipes and discuss our favorite TV shows.
I like to envision us lunching together, having twice-weekly phone conversations, and volunteering for our favorite causes. In my fantasy world, we join a book club, along with other mother-daughter duos, and meet once a month to talk about our husbands, babies, and occasionally, a book. Fantasy life is good.
The thing about fantasy life, though, is that it is just that – a fantasy. And, while the mortgage is paid off, the kids are perpetually cherubic, and the dead mother is here at Corner Bakery every other Tuesday, it doesn’t capture the REAL joys life offers: the satisfaction of working to pay that mortgage, the triumph of achieving in the face of adversity, and the fairly sure knowledge that despite all your warts and bumps in the road, somewhere out there, your mama gets it, and she IS proud of you.
The fact that I am both a motherless daughter and a daughterless mother means that my odds of joining that mother-daughter book club are pretty slim. My vantage point, however, demands that I share this advice: Don’t wait!
Take a page from “The Mother-Daughter Book Club,” by Heather Vogel Frederick, and start that club. In this middle-grade book, Emma’s librarian mom gets a group of middle school girls together to read “Little Women” with their mothers. Despite the fact that they’d all rather be someplace else, they find that through the course of reading the book, their friendship blooms, and their parental relationships blossom.
Fictionally speaking, this act of reading together spurs them to also enjoy other classics (in subsequent books,) including “Anne of Green Gables,” “Pride and Prejudice,” and “Jane Eyre.” I’d bet, however, that if those girls could come off the page, they’d tell us that just spending time together deepened their relationships, and fostered a bond that would span a lifetime – however long that turned out to be.
So, encourage your awkward preteen daughters to share a book with you and their friends. Invite your aging mother into your world; I guarantee she’s more relevant than you think. Enjoy each other’s company while you can—just remember to invite Aunt Edie every now and again.