By Marisa Nillpraphan
As I was growing up, the status my mother held in my mind’s eye ranged from perfect angel to oppressive autocrat.
I remember watching her brushing her hair and putting on lipstick, and thinking to myself that she was the most beautiful person in the world. I also remember telling her that and seeing her face light up. I was 6 years old and I loved no one more (except maybe Luke Skywalker who I had loved since I was 4). Fast forward 10 years, it was 1994 and I was a teen growing up during the height of the grunge movement. Being angry and rebellious are rites of passage for any teen throughout the ages, but it was cool to be miserable in the mid-90s. Of course, if you were a middle class kid living in a nice house with your own car and a loving mother, you had to invent your own misery. And that was exactly what I did.
I hated my father for leaving us 10 years before, even though he was there for us financially. I hated my mother for trying to control me. I mean, why couldn’t I go to a party with two boys I hardly knew, or smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol? I was 16 years old and indestructible with a cool amount of self-induced misery.
Eventually I got over myself and my relationship with my mother began to improve. Somehow she knew to quell my rebellious nature with patience and understanding when what she really wanted to do was force me to give up smoking, booze, and boys. Without her unconditional love and support I would have self-destructed.
The last time I saw my mother was in her room at a rehabilitation center in Arlington, Texas in August of 2014. I was about 8 weeks pregnant with my first child and she was the only other person who knew about the pregnancy besides my husband. My mother had multiple myeloma and was staying at the rehabilitation center following hip surgery. I can still see her smile and feel her hand on my belly when I close my eyes. She passed away in October of 2014. I have so many regrets about not being there with her more often, especially during her last days at my brother’s house. I wish I had spoken with her more. I wish I had told her every day how much I loved her, and how I could again see her like I did when I was 6 years old. I wish… But then I hear her voice telling me to let go of the things I cannot change, and to do my best to be happy. I hear her telling me she’s proud of me.
I became a mother in March of 2015, one day before my 37th birthday. My second child was born in October 2016. I think of her every day and channel her wisdom as I raise my children. Through my memories of her, she is posthumously guiding and shaping me as a mother.
Perhaps the greatest gift my mom gave me (besides life) was unconditional love. And the greatest gift my daughters have given me is the ability to love unconditionally. The moment I became a mother was the first time I was able to truly feel how much my mother loved me.
So this Mother’s Day, and every day, whether you have a great relationship with your mother or a contentious one, remember that however much you love your children, your mother loves (or loved) you just as much.