Saturday, May 11, 2013

Creative Mothers/ Family of Origin/ Family of Choice

My mother was  a piano player, and a singer. One of my most vivid memories as a little girl, was of her playing the piano, while I, in an ethereal state of mind, imagining I was a wonderful ballerina, as I swirled, twirled myself, and with arms flailing, moving all around the living room. She didn't blink an eye, but simply applied her talent and serious attention to supporting this budding ballerina.
Much later in life, when we would talk about this, and laugh, she admitted to me, she would sometimes have to leave to room laughing. I never had a clue. We were often involved in these ballet performances together, whether it was in our living room or in a theatre hall, which she would take me to at Christmas to see Swan Lake or the Nutcracker. She knew how much I loved dance,and she appreciated any kind of creative and cultural activity, be it musical, theatre or art.

Once I'd disappeared into the basement, where I constructed and painted an odd looking wooden giraffe. She was thrilled regardless of it being odd. For years into my adult hood she'd always proudly display my strange abstract art, and self portraits. My mother always supported my creativity, and desire to study art, making sure I had early art lessons with painting supplies. She was a very creative person. Her own creative endeavors always inspired, and encouraged my own pursuit of artistic goals. She never once discouraged me with statements like, " You'll never get a job being an artist " or " Why would you want to become an artist, you'll never make any money at that. ", and all the other kind of negative and soul crushing messages children hear, especially if they want to become some kind of an artist.

Having grown up during the great depression, my mother was unable to attend  University and pursue her dream of studying music, at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. She was able to get music lessons and played for years in Church, at various venues around, and was able to even make a little money at it.

 When we would come back to the Maritimes from Ontario, we'd head over to Westcock to the little Anglican Church, nestled in the woods, where our Milner family Bible is, and she'd commence to playing that old pump organ. It's a beautiful memory.

She was very talented with her hands, always finding time to make hats, socks, rugs etc. She had the great patience to teach me knitting and crocheting, which is not and easy thing to do, with a rambunctious child. Fortunately, I was a fast learner with dexterous fingers. I always found it fascinating that my mum was ambidextrous using her left and right brain.

When we lived in Toronto I remember a very special day. It was raining and she decided we'd spend the day together and we went to a puppet store. I was crazy about puppets. I thought I'd died and went to heaven and she really was the best mum in the world to me. She bought me a marionette of a Flamenco dancer. Oh she was beautiful!

This Mother's Day, like most folks, I'm thinking about my mother, and though she has left this mortal coil,  unbelievably, almost twenty years now, I think of her often and miss her always, especially this time of year.

My mum,  Sarah Helen (Milner) Meyers was not a feminist, as she grew up in a time when the word didn't exist. She was an amazingly strong  and good woman, in that she brought my brother and I up mostly single handed, working hard as a receptionist, from the time I was a toddler, and made her way through life in spite of the many very difficult obstacles she had to over come, and deal with. She helped and allowed me to find my own way, instilled, and imparted  her strong faith, and good values, that I aspire to live up to through her example.
 I am forever grateful to her. She was not perfect, but she was perfect for me. I love and miss her so much and I carry her close in the heart of my heart everyday, and I hear her gentle voice guiding me often.

On Saturday, November 18th, 1995 my mother died. I had come home early from a meeting with a treat for her and found her barely breathing and not conscious.
The same day my mother was dying in hospital, my father was also admitted after having alcoholic induced psychosis. He wasn't aware my mother was dying a floor below him. We had been separated for 26 years and recently had been reunited, after I hunted him down.

At this time, throughout that year, I had been keeping my first life changing morning pages journal, a companion book to Julie Cameron's book, The Artist's Way . My daily writing in this journal allowed me to process the great grief of losing my mother, and closest life friend.
 I also had a year into my own recovery from alcoholism. When the first year after my mother's death rolled around, I didn't know what to do, nor know how to process my deep grief. I was at a complete loss, and very close to a breakdown. It then suddenly dawned on me to go back, and read what I had written on that November day.
It was a healing balm, like God was speaking through my own written words to comfort. It gave me such a strength and peace of mind to cope with so much.

That day, I'd also found the one and only  recording I done of my mother playing the piano in our living room, which she did everyday, even when she lost her eyesight to macular degeneration late in life. She then through memory, and a good ear, taught herself to play again without her sheet music. Hearing her play that music once again, was very consoling and helped me to grieve, to begin the long healing process.

I would love to tell you things got better from here on in, but they didn't. I went on to have an emotional breakdown, that no one but me, and those morning pages, knew about, and I hid it all very well, or so I thought, especially from myself. How wrong I was. What followed but a shit load of hard emotional work, through the help and support of three different 12 Step programs, where I found many mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters; my family of choice, through the fellowship of a God given program ,for over the past 18 years.
Westcock/British Settlement Kids - near Sackville, New Brunswick

Today I had a lovely visit from a dear, sweet, and long time friend who I don't get to see very often, as she lives far away. She has become like a sister to me.
We had a heart to heart talk at the kitchen table, over a hot cup of tea, about our mothers,  our own lives and broken hearts.
I told her how truly very grateful I am, having had such a loving, beautiful, kind, trusting, forgiving and compassionate mother. I know there are many of us that do not. We can't choose our relatives. However the family we are born into, does not have to dictate to us, who we are. We have a choice, whether to be nurture a bitter root that will grow, invade and choke out our lives, or we can put ourselves, and our souls, into having a kind and giving heart, that will help to heal our wounds and even the wounds of others. We can also have families of choice, that can give us what we need.

After my friend left this afternoon, I thought to myself, I am going to email her, tell her how much I love her, and what she means to me. Then the door bell rang, it was her! She had returned, baring gifts and I was able to tell her face to face! We both hugged, shared a few tears and talked again. I gave her some books to read, that I thought would help her.
I've learned if you feel love, show love, and act on it.
As we exchanged our goodbyes, we both acknowledged we were feeling better.

Whomever you mother/father/sister or family is, tell them you love them, show them what they mean to you, you'll all feel better for it.

I am  happy to share this picture of my Amaryllis that  bloomed in a very timely fashion during this Mother's Day weekend. I like to think it did so just for my mother.

Happy Mother's Day Sarah Helen,
and to all of our mothers.


Christie said...

that was a beautiful tribute to your Mother! I've been thinking about mine alot too...sometimes I cry and other times I burst out laughing. I saw her a year ago tomorrow for the last time. The last thing I said to her was 'I love you'.
The week she died I got a note off to her telling her what a terrific person she was and how much I loved her. She did receive it a couple of days before she passed away. In that envelope I slipped that little bird you sent me because my eye fell on it as I was addressing the envelope; she loved birds and it was nice to slip a little something in the letter for her. Thank you for that!
love, Christie

Unknown said...

Dear Christie,

Thank you so very much for your kind comments. I am so happy to know you sent your mother that letter with the little bird and that she got it before she died. That is very touching and thank you for sharing that. Laughing and crying sure is all part of the grieving and healing process. I can't help but think of women who have lost mums on this day. Mother's Day is always a bitter sweet.

You will always be my soul sister. I love you very much!

Indigene Theresa said...

This is such an amazing tribute to your Mom and your life! I admire you more and more. Your Mom gave us an incredible human being, and we all thank her for that.

Unknown said...

Indigene thank you for your kind thoughts and comments. I am humbled and give God all the Glory.