Love Reflected

I notice the way the sun dances on my daughter’s hair.  She has my eyes – my mother’s eyes.  Her voice is sincere; gentle and confident as she speaks the words.

“I’ve never questioned, not for one day, how much you love me.”

We’re sitting outside North Italia, in oversized patio furniture, and I’m happy we have our own little corner of the restaurant.  The smell of moist soil from the planter box mixes with a waft of fresh bread.  Through the low, wrought iron fence that separates the patio from the outdoor shopping mall I see a car pull up to the valet parking, and hope they don’t look this way.

The lump in my throat grows and I feel the tears begin to puddle at the base of my eyes.

Those words.  She can’t possibly know the impact of those words.

* * *

I’d been scared of my mom.  A strict, elegant woman, who withheld affection.  When asked to do something, I was to say “Yes, Mother.”  Her beauty marveled me, but I knew that I was an irritation to her.  Another child, in a long line of children, born because of her devotion to the catholic faith.  And then came her leukemia and years of sickness…  As a teenager, I read to her in bed, propped up by the pillow next to hers.  We didn’t talk.  I knew enough to just read, and I was content in being allowed to be close.

Then her death.  Cancer’s end to suffering.

* * *

The years brought me womanhood.  At 21, with an unexpected pregnancy, I’d gone from being a self-centric, adventurous and carefree college student, to young mother overnight.  I was no longer able to sleep a peaceful 9 hours – instead waking at the slightest sound, listening for any movement from the baby’s bassinet.  A second, beautiful child came.  A sister for the brother.

A proper career was needed.  One that would fit with being a mom.  More college, a degree, and then teaching.  I’d made it my goal that by the age of 30 I’d have a job I could be proud of, and at 29 I stood at the head of my own classroom.

Then divorce.  He said he never really loved me.

* * *

As I raised my children, I showered them in hugs and kisses and snuggles on the couch; making sure to give them the affection I’d longed for as a child.  We read stories at night and said our prayers.  I cut their hair in the bathroom and helped with homework.  My son learned to cook and my daughter, to bake.  I felt confident in my parenting.  Weekends at their dad’s was my respite, so I took art classes, and delved into photography, and gardening.

Weekends were also spent offering my heart to a succession of men – cultivating one-sided relationships, with undying optimism.  I’d learned from a young age to love regardless of reciprocation.  But, deep down, I knew I deserved more.

As the years passed, my son began to struggle.  He was intense, funny, and brilliant; “highly gifted” said his school.  But his grades dropped and he retreated into a world of books and video games.  It appeared to me to be normal, teenage angst and I blamed it on hormones.  I tried tough love by grounding him and lecturing him.  He’ll thank me when he’s older, I thought.

Then suicide.  My beautiful baby boy, gone.  My love had failed him.

* * *

It’s spring, and my daughter’s a young woman now.  As we sit on the patio of the Italian restaurant, I admire her.  She has the beauty and elegance of her grandmother, and the intelligence of her brother.   But, she’s her own woman.  We’ve grown together, through the years.  She’s experienced a different mom than my son did.  One who’s more patient and accepting of myself and others.  I’ve learned the importance of asking questions, and listening intently to the answers.  I’m the age my mother was when she died, and I understand her now.  I know that her inability to love was not about me… it was about her.  And I forgive her.  She did her best – as I have.

I play my daughter’s words over again in my mind.

I’ve never questioned, not for one day, how much you love me.

She’s looking at me intently.  Those eyes.

“I love you, Mom.”

It’s said without expectation.  She’s happy and confident in herself.  She knows healthy love, and through her, so do I.

There’s a pause while she lets it sink in; wanting to be sure I truly hear her.

And I think, “Yes, she knows the impact of those words.”

Marina
My daughter.  My gift.  My love reflected.
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12 thoughts on “Love Reflected

  1. Sara, what an amazing life you have lived, surely not all good and yet you power forward. Despite the cancer it appears that you are in a better place than you have been in many years. The fact that you share what your life was and is like will hopefully be cathartic. Just so you know, it helps others. Nobody judges or second guesses anything you write of. We are mesmerized by your strength when you need it most, your spirit for life despite childhood adversity and today, the love of your beautiful daughter and supportive family and many friends who love you. Your writing is superb and I will look forward to the next entry. *Hugs*

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  2. Geri

    Beautifully written. This all we ever want as mothers, to have our children know how much we love them. Your daughter has a beautiful soul, just like her mother ❤

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  3. Margaret Ann Adams

    Sara–the word love was not spoken in my original family, except in my mother’s singing, when she sang it with such feeling. She was from a German stoic background. She passed that on to me, and I had to learn to speak of love much later when I was studying counseling. Your daughter’s firm statement is a gift.
    Love, Margaret Ann

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  4. Michael Hills

    It is 7.00 am on a Tuesday Morning here and I have just read this Sara. I shall be thinking of your words all day long and the way they have moved me in so many ways. Your daughter is a true reflection of her beautiful, caring and loving mother 🙂 xxx

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  5. Tina Mason

    I have read your post Sara and want so very much to write a comment here but I am at a loss for words. Life is so fragile in many ways but we generally take it for granted so do not have the ability to look inside our souls. You have opened the window to yours and that in turn makes us think about our own lives. When your journey is over you would be doing a great service to put your journal into book form, it makes compelling reading. Take care sweet Sara and have a warm hug from me xxxx

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  6. Your writing never fails to move me, as well as your photographs. You are one of those rare gifted ones among us who is also willing to share so much of your personal world in a way that gives us a chance to look more deeply into our own lives. Thank you.

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  7. Leon Webster

    Sara, I am one of the grumpy old men who “met” you via the Escape Trailer Forum. I think your photos are great, but was really moved by this essay. Thank you for sharing.

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  8. Berk Taylor

    It’s amazing reading your story. I almost feel like part of me is writing the same words sometimes. It’s like when you connect with a good book/author. I think you and I think a lot the same. This is always good reading for me when I’m in a waiting room waiting for a doctor to spend a few minutes with me (doctor/ sales rep relationship).

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