Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Motherhood
“Who were you before you were a mother? As a young girl, what did you dream of doing with your life? Did your life turn out at all like you had planned? What were your high points? What were the lows?”
These are just a few of the questions I wish I could ask my mother.
Having just passed the five-year anniversary of her death, I still find myself with so many questions. I know some of the answers through family lore but when I had the opportunity to ask firsthand, I did not take it.
Certainly, the older I get, the more I wish I had paid attention to her and all she sacrificed to raise the likes of my siblings and me. I wish I had spent more time in meaningful conversation. I wish we had spent more time doing what she enjoyed.
The reality is that, for me, she had always been a mom. I never really thought much about her being a daughter, a sister, a wife or friend. I didn’t even really consider that she might have had other aspirations, until I was well into my 30s and by then, I was a mother myself.
I understood the selflessness that comes with parenting.
I found myself quickly forgetting about my own dreams as I did whatever it took to raise my children and give them the life they deserved. I was determined to give my kids the security I did not have.
I am pretty sure my mom spent her years making sure she gave me a life better than the one she had as well.
I know my mother’s life was not an easy one. As the eldest daughter in a family of seven children, she was forced to leave school to help raise her younger siblings when her father became ill and her own mother needed to enter the workforce.
By age 19 she was married and had her first child at 21. She spent 25 years in a difficult marriage, raising seven children of her own.
I know she worked in retail for most of her career but sometimes cleaned houses on the side for extra income. I know she spent most of her life just making ends meet and never travelled outside of the United States.
“Vacations” were always limited to visiting her children, whether to my sisters in Nebraska or Arizona or to me in California.
When I left home and moved across the country, nary with a look back in her direction, I didn’t give a lot of thought to how it would make her feel.
I didn’t ask. I just let her know I had decided to leave the East Coast for the West, sight unseen.
I remember we only called each other on Sunday evenings after the rates went down and we did not call each other as often as we should have. I would call for family recipes when I was homesick or to ask about clarification on some recollection I was having trouble with.
She would call if someone was sick or a relative had passed. Our conversations were largely about other family members health and well-being and the weather. Pretty simple stuff. It sure would be nice to be able to pick up the phone and ask about any one of them today.
I don’t think my mother ever begrudged my selfishness. She watched me go out and struggle in the world as she had with each of my other siblings. We floundered. We failed. We struggled. We succeeded.
Twice she suffered through the agony of losing sons — her first born to an auto accident; her youngest son to a rare virus — both unexpected. Neither from which she fully recovered.
And alternatively, she celebrated the births of grandchildren and great grandchildren. The circle of life in full view.
As my children enter the world of adult hood, I find myself thinking back to who I was when I was their age. What my life was like and how I hoped my life would be.
It can be difficult to hold onto those aspirations when the more natural path is to put it all aside in the name of parenting. Who has time to think about much of anything at all when the day to day joy (and sometimes grind) of parenting takes all you’ve got and then some?
I know my mother knew she was loved by my siblings and me. I think she understood I didn’t give her enough of my time, because I always thought there would be time for her later, but I was wrong.
Given the opportunity I would ask about the girl who became the woman who became my mother. I bet she would have a lot to say.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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