Mothers and Daughters: Five Generations of Stubborn Love
My husband and I did not really mean for our lives to be set here in Lancaster County, but this is where the wind has taken us. We’ve been here for a little over four years now, and we are making the best of it. We’ve looked for some opportunities to move, but we haven’t managed to find our way back home. Home for us is in Charlotte, North Carolina. It isn’t where either of us were raised, but it is where our heart is. It is where we worked together, where we fell in love, got married, and it is where we want to raise our daughter. However, the universe is not ready for us to move just yet, so we are rebuilding our hearts and our home here in Lancaster County until further notice. At times it is difficult for us, being first time parents to be so far away from both of our families, but it has only strengthened our faith in each other and solidified our commitment to raising a strong and independent daughter. People ask us all the time how we manage to get by without a family support system close by, and I won’t lie and say its easy, but we manage to get by okay. Fortunately, we’ve made a few really great friends that treat us like family when it matters most. Since our families are scattered all across the U.S, we do a lot of texting and photo sharing through e-mail and the social medias. I’m also on a first name basis with the folks at our local post office. I try my best to send out photos, cards, and gifts to our family members regularly, to make sure they know we are missing them, and thinking of them often. I know that they all appreciate the correspondence, but it isn’t the same as being able to drive down the road and spend quality time with your loved ones.
One thing that I do struggle with, living so far away from everyone is that they are missing all of the amazing, silly, and even mundane quirks, stories and memories that we are making with our daughter. They get still images and some video clips of her every day shenanigans, but they don’t get to see the sparkle in her eyes when she sees us at daycare pickup. They missed her first steps, her first word, and seeing how my husband and I interact with her, parent her, and love her. There are a million and one things that went on in my childhood that I would never want my daughter to even hear about much less go through, but through the thick of it I had some pretty interesting characters to learn from and look up to. Especially the women in my family and my daughter is missing out on truly getting to know them. My beautiful little girl has five grandmothers scattered all along the east coast and middle america and she has only seen them a handful of times. On my side of the family, she is the youngest female of five generations of women. Our family is not only missing out on her, we are missing out on five generations full of history, wisdom, family jokes and anecdotes. The women range from ninety-one to fifteen months old, and there is enough love, drama, and exaggerated truths and tall tales to fill a library. My daughter doesn’t get to create little memories and stories to be added to that collection and it breaks my heart. I hope very soon to be able to share stories with her about the women that came before her, and what those women had to get through and endure for her and I to be able to reach this special moment in our lives where our bond and our story is just beginning. To be completely honest and very clear, the women who came before me are all completely bat-shit crazy, myself included. We all fell off the same tree, however we all rolled down the hill in our own unique paths of crazed and passionate emotion. No matter what generation we were raised in or how differently we have each chosen to mother our children, we are all five linked and bonded for life. Their failures, successes, and choices are key to how I became the woman I am today, and I hope that my daughter will use our stories and our mistakes to mold herself into the woman I know she could become.
Besides being completely inappropriate, unhinged, and over all certifiable, the women in my family are brave, strong, stubborn, hard working, full of grit, and very colorful. Literally, not one of us is the same shade. If you line us all up we look like a swatch of paint samples you pick up at your local hardware store. “If you are looking for the perfect warm and neutral color to brighten up your living space, look no further…” Anyhow, the women in my family are full of life and passion, and have tons of character. I have so many important memories and moments with these women that played such a huge role in me growing up. Through their love, their discipline, their advice, and even their mistakes I have been able to find out what type of woman and mother I want to be for my daughter. They have guided me my whole life, and given me strength and purpose through their struggles and hardships and I hope that one day my little girl will be able to understand the stories that had to happen before she got here.
The mother and daughter relationship is a tricky one from my experience. In our family, we all are strangely close and bonded, but we aren’t perfect by any definition of the word. There have been a ton of struggles, misunderstandings, hurt feelings and a lot of stubborn pride. It seems like the mother-daughter relationships in my family have aways been troubled in some way or another, but somehow even through all the arguments and struggles we are all still there for each other, no matter what. It’s like we are all so stubborn that we wont admit fault with one another, but we also are stubborn enough that we won’t give up on one another either. The thing is, the women in my family didn’t have time or sometimes the energy for all the warm and fuzzies while they were raising their children. They were too busy busting their asses to help support their families and just trying to get by. No one is ever wrong, no one ever apologizes, and grudges are kept as trophies in the library, along with all the anecdotes and tall tales. It’s a cycle that I aim to end with my little girl, and I know that the love and support that we receive from these crazy biddies are key to our future in all the shapes and forms that they come in.
Starting a family in your teens, being a woman in a man’s world, and being responsible for the well being of tiny humans, all while trying to grow up yourself is an anxiety attack waiting to happen in my eyes. However, somehow the women in my family have managed to raise intelligent, thoughtful, and unique human beings. I realize now, the struggles my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother had to go through and I know now more than ever why they always told me to enjoy my youth and find myself, before starting a family. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to get to know myself before falling in love, and before giving life to the happiest little girl on Earth. I feel like the mothers and daughters in my family still have a lot of work to do, as far as letting things go and mending the hurt feelings, but I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if they had all had perfect relationships with one another or if they had been perfect mothers themselves. Which, the “perfect” mother is a myth, if you find her, you trap her and hold her hostage for studies and researching purposes. The thing is, that I honestly can’t wait to be able to explain to my daughter how insane her relatives are, and that she’s a part of something so much bigger than just her Daddy and I. The women in my family fought for her and I to be able to live the way we live. Through their stories, we now have the chance to start a new narrative. We don’t have to worry about finding a dynamic in a mother-daughter relationship in an old world, communist Cuba. We won’t have to navigate a relationship through the struggles of moving to a new country and working endlessly to make ends meet. We won’t have the hardships and issues that come with trying to raise a family as a teenager, before you are even grown up yourself. However, we will have all of their stories, all of their wisdom, and all of their love and support to help us create our own unique relationship. As I sit with my daughter and show her the photos of the women in our family, I know that she is too young to understand how precious these memories are or how important the people are in them. However, I know soon enough she will start to put the pieces together of our past and start creating the pieces of her future. She’ll get the opportunity to become her own unique and crazy biddy that fell off of our tree and found her own way out.
These hands have held me, molded me, and supported me. Every line, every wrinkle, every crevice holds our secrets and our stories that will bond us together for all of our days.
“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh~