Susan's Thursday morning note May 11, 2006 Complexity of Mother/Daughter Relationships Birthday Parties in Heaven: Thoughts on Love, Life, Grief, & Other Matters of the Heart by Ana Veciana Suarez
Good morning! Happy Mother’s Day weekend (and graduation weekend if that is affecting you)! A book that I have kept near my bed for a few years is named Birthday Parties in Heaven: Thoughts on Love, Life, Grief, and other Matters of the Heart. I was greatly affected by the essays of the author, Ana Veciana-Suarez, an immigrant from Cuba. The entire book is made up of unrelated essays. Maybe because my mother died a few years ago of cancer, the essay she wrote on her mother was especially poignant to me. Here is what I have underlined:
“To write about one’s mother is to court sentimentality. The writing itself is a civilized form of betrayal. One risks everything – privacy, a misunderstanding of complex emotions, the relationship itself – for a recounting that can easily be marred by a banal phrase or a sappy scene. A mother, a good mother, becomes larger than life over time, a source of inspiration, a figure to worship, occasionally a reason for torment, too. As a mother myself, I know that we play a commanding role and create an irrevocable bond in our children’s lives, regardless of the qualifications we bring to the part. Through her and with her, we learn to trust, to be intimate, to accept and give of ourselves. A mother’s love is yardstick and buoy, haven and catalyst, and so the symptoms of a broken relationship with a mother spread far into the future. What we have – or don’t have – with her affects the way we make our friends, how we love our mates, the way we treat our own kids. …That is why I write about my mother with such trepidation. Words seem meager, sentences anemic, when trying to describe the various layers, so dense, so rich of this relationship. Still… to write about her is to draw closer, to understand better… In writing this, I feel a tremendous sense of disloyalty. After all, how do you reconcile the woman who criticized so harshly with the woman who insisted I could do anything, the mother who disciplined me with the one hand and then who sat up all night at my bedside when I was sick, rubbing my feverish forehead while clucking her tongue?”
I’m not exactly sure what I want to get across to all of you, but I’ve had that book out for about a week and keep on rereading those sections. To describe “Mother’s Day” is just an impossibility – too complex to even go near. I encourage you to take the time to just list on a sheet of paper all the memories you can possibly think of with your mother (even if she is in her 50’s & living on the next block as you). Remember all you can. I cannot believe how little details I remember. I encourage you to do this for yourself and to then have to give to your children.
I hope that you have the chance to be with someone that you love as a mother, if your actual “mother” is not here. May God bless your relationships for the next year with women in your life. Have a great week, thank you so much for your business and encouragement. We couldn’t be here without you. Susan
Works Cited: Veciana-Suarez, Ana. Birthday Parties in Heaven. New York. Plume. 2000.