We All Want To Be Different Mothers

Updating my blog has been a thing nagging at me in the back of my mind all year. I’ve never been one to journal but have changed the way I document events, free writing memories in storyscapes, scenes, diagrams. Instead of making notes like “never forget…” here and there or asking Peter, “Hey what happened when….,” I’ve been writing to recall the emotions tied to memories. I’ve stalled though lately. My preoccupation isn’t with the past long gone but the near past. My mother died recently, and I find that I grasp at every moment in the days before her sudden death, afraid she will slip away in my mind as easily as she did on Labor Day.

Momma and me 1974

This has been an extraordinary year, and in September I marked the third year I began to finally, finally stop reading and thinking about writing fiction and do it. I published more of my glacially slow writing, attended workshops, worked closely with Nancy Stohlman and Kathy Fish and in the process met and learned from other gifted writers and found a way into an ocean of creativity. Two literary magazines I admire nominated me for prizes, including The Pushcart—a mind-blowing, adrenaline-flooding experience— and in January/February I’ll be at Rivendell in Sewanee to complete a working draft on a novella that will cut through my body and into my heart because of my mother’s death. We had attempted to repair our relationship over the past few years, but so much was hit or miss. I mourn what we missed as mother and daughter. I mourn her life, and I mourn for her, for my sister, our family. Addiction is a soul-stealer. What I despise most about it, over and above how it alienates a person from their own humanity, is that it erodes a person’s belief in their self-worth to receive compassion and love.

I’ve been working on this book in my head for several years now, reconfiguring the relationships among the women in Aeschylus’ Oresteia. I talked about it with my mother, when I was in Tennessee in late August, sitting outside on the steps with her when we needed a break from the grief going on inside the house where her father, my grandfather, has been trying to die a good death. We talked about the family dynamics of the story, and it brought up more apologies about our own pasts, things she desperately wanted to change. She wanted to be a different mother, and I think she expected something more exciting in a relationship with me like luncheons, manicures, shopping, things I don’t do. I told her instead it doesn’t matter anymore, let it go, it’s normal to be annoyed with one another sometimes, we do have a relationship, we are having one now. This is a relationship. We all want to be different mothers.

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21 thoughts on “We All Want To Be Different Mothers

  1. April……. Dear one, thank you for allowing me the priveldege to read your Blog! You have been given a beautiful gift and everyone who reads it will be Bless! Let your light shine sweet one…….so proud for you!! Big hug, jean

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  2. April Bradley, in your words you have a gift: to feel, to touch, to reason. Foolishly, I believed I could be a ‘better’ mother than mine, do a better job than she had with us, my siblings and I. It has taken me decades to figure out, we all do the best we can as parents.
    My father died a year ago. We collected his ashes, my sisters and my brother-in-law, and drove to the river near our city, the urn in the car a physical presence. We took his ashes to the river and scattered the ashes into the currents. When the river meets the ocean, the waters blending, I believe he will be forever of the world.
    I know you are on your way to collect your mothers ashes. Please know I am thinking of you.

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  3. Beautiful post, April. I wanted to parent differently from my mother believing foolishly that I could do “better”. Many decades later, I have come to the realization that parents do the best they can within the parameters of their circumstances.
    My father passed away a year ago. When we picked up his ashes, my sisters and I, he was a presence in the car, the urn held in turn by each one of us. We scattered his ashes in the nearby Krishna river which ultimately meets the Bay of Bengal. I believe he has now become one with the universe.
    I am thinking of you today.

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    1. Sudah, I love what you wrote. Thank you, friend. It’s an incredibly powerful image to think of you and your sister releasing your father into the Krishna River. Like A, you wrote about how we become driven to do better. So many of my friends and I have discussed this, this desire to do things differently, realizing that what we were doing was trying to be the mother we wanted while trying to be the mother our children needed—and still holding on to pain that we didn’t get what we needed or wanted from our mothers. The most kind and motherly mine ever was when I was at crisis points in my own mothering. It is a broken thing that she is not here.

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  4. This brought tears to my eyes. So beautiful, April
    It does remind me of my mother and our relationship.
    I hope I’ll be able to read your novella some day.
    I used to write about my mother in a humurous way because it hurt too much but now, finally, I can write about it in a different way.

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    1. Caroline, what a compliment, thank you. I am so glad to know you can write about the painful things in different modes. There’s an edge to that kind of humor or at least there is if you were revealing something of your experience. It sounds like now you are growing in a different direction with your writing. And like Lisa pointed out below, we are still in relationships with our mothers, no matter where they go or how far. I need to catch up on your blog.

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