Thursday, October 21, 2010
I read this book "Are You My Mother?" to my children at least fifty times. To be honest, that includes me reading it long after they couldn't sit still any longer. I remember being alone, no children around, when the baby bird's sad words struck me-- "Where is my mother?"
Yeah, where is my mother? I wondered.
I'm not stretching the truth when I say this book became my first attempt to understand Mom.
When I first began reading "Are You My Mother?" I wasn't sure why I was so enamored with this book. I felt silly sneaking moments to read it while my children played outside or were at school. Wasn't there a law that a child should be present at the reading of a children's story? What was it about this book? Was it the illustrations? Darling ones for sure, but I knew the answer came from the words and their meaning to me. I kept pouring over what P.D.'s baby bird decided. "Now I will go and find my mother.
You may be wondering why I needed to find my mom.
She left my siblings and me when I turned ten. Not physically, but she was gone just the same. I watched her eat, drink, and move about the house, but the mother I knew was no longer. She had changed in a way I didn't understand. And as my teen years drew closer, Mom became a stranger and more lost. Then, right after my thirteenth birthday, Mom had a severe mental breakdown, from which she never fully recovered. What caused it? A house fire that took the life of my baby sister.
I am grateful that I had ten good years with Mom. Being the eldest of eight children, I was more blessed than my younger siblings. Some of them never remembered her any way except for the new, sad Mom. Still, I suffered, watching Mom disappear.
When I began having children of my own, I missed my mother with a passion. To make matters worse, my friends talked about going to lunch with their mothers. How, afterward, their moms bought them a thing they wanted or needed. My face would burn from jealously. At these times, I left with feelings of regret for what I didn't have and what my children lacked not having a grandmother. And the even stronger emotion of longing, which turned into self pity.
By then, I had to own a copy of P.D. Eastman's "Are You My Mother?" (I got too anxious, waiting in between the times I borrowed it from the library). It was one of the first books for children that I bought. I soaked in every word and page. And kept reading P.D.'s words, "I have a mother," said the baby bird. "I know I do. I will find her. I will. I WILL!"
I would think, "How do I find my mother when she's not physically lost?"
The years flew, and Mom left this world a month before my first granddaughter's birth. The moment I saw Morgan Ann, the terrible ache in my heart flew out of its nest. I had been diligent, reading up on mental illness between "Are You My Mother?" and the day a new life joined our family. Those long years of searching naturally flowed on to an end. I reached a sort of peace about Mom.
The baby bird says in Eastman's book, "You are a bird, and you are my mother!"
If I were to write a book about my mother, it would end with, "You are broken, and you are my mother."
Over the last ten years, I struggled, again, with the issue of a loved one and mental illness. My son suffered with both physical and mental problems and died by suicide six years ago. You may follow my journey of love and loss and know there is hope in love.
Thank you, P.D. Eastman, for the book with a baby bird hero. It helped me begin a flight that moved me to here.
Until next time . . . Onward Ho!