In honor of Mother’s Day this Sunday, guest blogger Hollie Grimaldi-Flores reminisces about her own mother.
“Who were you before you were a mother?”
“As a young girl, what did you dream of doing with your life?”
“Did your life turn out at all like you had planned?”
“What were your high points? What were the lows?”
These are just a few of the questions I wish I could ask my mother.
Having recently passed the five-year anniversary of her death, I still find myself with so many questions. I know some of the answers through family lore, but when I had the opportunity to ask firsthand, I did not take it. The older I get, the more I wish I had paid attention to her and all she sacrificed to raise my siblings and me. I wish we had spent more time in meaningful conversation and doing the things she enjoyed.
The reality is that, for me, she had always been a mom.
I never really thought much about her being a daughter, a sister, a wife, or a friend. In fact, I didn’t even consider that she might have had other aspirations until I was well into my thirties. By then, I was a mother myself, and I understood the selflessness that comes with parenting.
I found myself quickly forgetting about my own dreams as I did whatever it took to raise my children and give them the lives they deserve. Providing them with the security I did not have became a priority. Looking back, it’s safe to say that my mom spent her years making sure she gave me a life better than the one she had, as well.
I know my Mother’s life was not an easy one.
As the eldest daughter in a family of seven children, she was forced to leave school to help raise her younger siblings when her father became ill and her mother needed to enter the workforce. She was married at nineteen and had her first child at twenty-one. She spent twenty-five years in a difficult marriage, raising seven children of her own. I know she worked in retail for most of her career, but she sometimes cleaned houses for extra income. I know she spent most of her life just making ends meet, and she never traveled outside of the United States. “Vacations” were limited to visiting her children, whether to my sisters in Nebraska or Arizona or to me in California.
When I left home and moved across the country, with not so much as a backward glance in her direction, I didn’t give a lot of thought to how it would make her feel. I just told her I had decided to leave the East Coast for the West, sight unseen. We spoke on the phone on Sunday evenings after the long-distance rates went down, but rarely beyond that. I would occasionally call for family recipes when I was homesick or to clarify a recollection I was having trouble with. She would call if someone was sick or a relative had passed. Our conversations were largely about other family members’ health and well-being and the weather. Pretty simple stuff. It sure would be nice to be able to pick up the phone and ask about any one of them today.
I don’t think my mother ever begrudged my selfishness.
She watched me go out and struggle in the world as she had with each of my other siblings. We floundered. We failed. We regrouped. We succeeded. Twice she suffered through the agony of losing two sons unexpectedly—her firstborn to an auto accident, and her youngest to a rare virus—and she never fully recovered. Alternatively, she celebrated the births of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The circle of life in full view.
As my children enter the world of adulthood, I find myself thinking back to who I was when I was their age. What my life was like and how I hoped it would be. It can be difficult to hold on to those aspirations when the more natural path is to put it all aside in the name of parenting. Who has time to think about much of anything when the day-to-day joy (and sometimes grind) of parenting takes all you’ve got—and then some?
I have no doubt that my mother knew she was loved by my siblings and me. I think she understood I didn’t give her enough of my time, because I always thought there would be time for her later, but I was wrong. Given the opportunity, I would ask about the girl who became the woman who became my mother. I bet she would have a lot to say.
Following a career in broadcast and print media, Hollie Grimaldi Flores became a freelance writer. Originally from New York State, she has been in Northern California since 1985. She and her husband raised a blended family of six boys and one girl—now all grown. She is available for hire for ghostwriting, media content, and articles on a variety of topics. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.