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Motherless Daughters & (Other)mothers.

May 15th, 2010 by Melinda Blau

This morning, I followed a link to a Mother’s Day contest sponsored by the Selah Independent, a local newspaper in central Washington (state), and noticed that out of the eighteen elementary school finalists — all of whom wrote lovingly about their mothers — this was the grand prize winner:

“Dear Mom, Mommy you use to buy me stuff a lot. I loved it when you massaged my back. It feals good. You are the best mom. You tuck me in my bed. You took me to the mall. I liked to play roly poly at bedtime. We laid on the floor and rolled real fast. We laughed. I miss you a lot, a lot, a lot. What is it like in heaven? How are you doing up there?” – Bella

So sad, a motherless daughter, so young.  Undoubtedly, her situation affected the judges, too.  I lost my own mother when I was 29–Jen was four.  I felt cheated then, so I can’t imagine how hard it is at ten.  In the years that followed, I’d suddenly be overcome with emotion at the loss–for example, if I walked by her old apartment building or watched a movie in which a woman died.  Special occasions were the hardest.  I lost it at my son’s Bar Mitzvah, and at Jennifer’s wedding, I sobbed at the mention of loved ones who were not there to celebrate with us.

Henrietta's Line

I can’t say I had a stellar relationship with my mother, Henrietta.  It was distant but not argumentative, and she was “old” when she had me (35 was old in those days).  But I never doubted that she loved me (I was “the baby”).  We couldn’t have the kind of conversations I now have with my own daughter, but she was my mother nonetheless.   While she was alive and even after she died, I was lucky to find a bevy of othermothers I could depend on, such as my eleven-years-older sister, certain aunts, and even some friends who fit that bill.  I hope that little Bella is just as fortunate.

At left: My first and dearest othermother–my older sister–is appropriately at the center of this ten-year-old photo of the “best girls,” as we call ourselves, our daughters and grandaughters. I named this shot for that great movie, Antonia’s Line.

If this post evokes memories of great women in your life, it’s not too late.  Remember the “everyday-should-be-mother’s-day mantra,” and take a moment to tell your mother and/or othermothers how grateful you are!  It’s better than sending a letter to heaven!  While you’re at it, plan an afternoon or evening together and rent Antonia’s Line.

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7 Responses to “Motherless Daughters & (Other)mothers.”

  1. Jane Salzfass says:

    Melinda, I love this story. My mom died when I was 40 and I felt way too young. She was only 67. I still miss her all the time. My daughters have fond, if fading, memories of her and I am so sad that they do not have her today to show them her strength and feminism.

  2. Melinda Blau says:

    Thanks. Glad to hear this resonated with you. I see some women dealing (not so well) with their aging mothers–some are frustrated, angry, others loving and totally accepting–and I wonder how I would have been with mine…and how, someday, Jennifer will be with me.

  3. Kris Miner says:

    I’ve had what I call bad luck with Moms. My birth mother gave me up for adoption, when I reached out to her, she didn’t want to communicate. I was a new Mom at the time. My adoptive Mom died when I was 20, she had breast cancer. I was 13 when she was diagnosed. Things change, we change. This Mothers Day was the first time I really grieved not ever hearing from my birth Mom (on a Mothers Day). I miss my Mom (who raised me). My teen is giving me hell and I’d sure like to say sorry for my rebel years! =) Great site, glad I came to visit!

  4. Melinda Blau says:

    Glad to have your voice here, Kris. I’m looking for all sorts of “mothering” stories. I’m sure many people will identify with you. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 16. Although she died many years later of bone cancer, I still feel the sting of being a girl whose mother had her breast removed. Just keep things in perspective with your daughter, and remember that in addition to giving you “hell.” one day (not too soon, we hope!) she will also give you a grandchild, and that makes up for everything!

  5. Kelly says:

    I found your website because I’m reading Hope Edelman’s book, “Motherless Daughters” again. It belonged to my own mother, whose mother (my grandmother) died when she was only 4. I lost my mother just shy of my 28th birthday, and am now pregnant with my first child. It is a difficult time enough, but living with a double legacy of this loss I search to find other ways to connect and keep my mother’s spirit alive in me, while trying to cope with all of these emotions. My “othermother” died in summer of 2010, and her daughter Carrie has been my best friend for over 22 years. Carrie is my rock and an excellent mother herself. I find comfort in our friendship but I know that a mother’s love is totally irreplaceable, especially now that my life has been transformed in such a profound way. To be pregnant with life is to carry a wondrous gift that only those who have been initiated can understand. My paternal grandmother is an amazing source of strength for me too, just as she was for my mother when I was born. Thank you for your beautiful site to honor motherhood and the deep connections we all share in this rite of passage!!!!

  6. Melinda Blau says:

    Thanks for sharing, Kelly–so glad you found Mother U. I’ve been a bad steward of the site over the last several months because I’m finishing up a book about family. It has given me lots to think about and will share some of those thoughts here in the future. Please keep coming back!

  7. Muzza says:

    Mary Pat Marcello – Congratulations Tricia (as I remember you!), and Grandma Kathy! Love it that Meridith has bgrouht all you girls back into my scope!

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