In Search Of…

Written by on May 10, 2015

Alice Walker touched a lot of her readers and fans with her memoir, In Search Of Our Mother’s Gardens. The way she shared her appreciation for the way her mother showed discipline, creativity and a nurturing spirit through the cultivation of her garden was a revelation to me. I would love to possess a similarly poetic understanding of my mother as a woman, but with each passing year, it gets harder to distinguish the real person from the ever-fading memories.

This July, it will be 34 years since my mother lost her fight with metastatic breast cancer. She’s been gone almost as long as she was here, and that is a difficult equation to ponder. Of course I have memories. By and large, my childhood was a happy, indulgent one. As the only child of an only child, I got as much time and attention as my mother could spare. This, in the midst of her full-time job as a teacher, acquiring two graduate degrees, and dealing with a heinous disease that was rarely diagnosed in women her age back then. I am full of those general impressions of feeling special and loved. But there is a soft focus on the details, a fill-in-the-blanks feel to the specifics of what we did, and what we meant. And no amount of family research, photos and documents will be able to bring that back.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, there are genuine feelings and moments trapped by the passage of time. I would love to have a working, honest notion of the grown woman my mother was. Ask her questions about balancing work and family, setting goals, nurturing spirit, self-love and selfless compromise. I’d love to tell her how hard it was to deal with a stepmother with a completely different world philosophy, and how I grew into womanhood with a long list of don’ts and a far shorter list of dos because I was winging it.

So, the girltalk fantasy is just that. But perhaps somewhere along this journey of my own making, I’ll stumble upon a trigger that will unearth some of those fragments of time with my mother. There are far worse things to carry with me into the future than knowing that I was loved, wholly and unceasingly. And if that’s the strongest impression she’s left on me, other than our nearly identical looks, I’ll be just fine.

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