Our Mother's Daughters

Conversation with friends this weekend. One of them says she is having trouble finding herself again. Ever since she helped her mother from incapacitation through illness and finally death, she feels she has become someone she didn't know existed.

I know how she feels.

Neither of us were close to our particular mothers. Both were women who found meaning for themselves in the church. Both were women we were certain judged us harshly. Neither were women we tried to emulate.

And yet now, my friend says she finds herself arranging things in her house the way her mother might have done. Doing things a little differently, a little more the way her mother might have liked. Sometimes even seeing things from what she imagines might have been her mother's point of view.

I know how she feels.

Every time I look in the mirror, I see the face of the woman I never wanted to be. As I'm tidying things away, I feel the spirits of my mother and grandmother in my hands. I start to discard something, and one of them says, "You shouldn't waste that. Someone could use it."

But we are still ourselves. My mother didn't swear like a sailor or try to write novels. Her mother didn't make tie dye or work the late shift in Main Camp at the Oregon Country Fair for 20 years. My mother wouldn't be trying to hang out her hopes and fears for the world to read. Her mother wouldn't be scouring Value Village for clothing and materials in shades of peach.

As it turns out, though, we are both our mothers' daughters. Some of us just have to reconcile ourselves to it a little more. I hope she can picture her mother smiling in approval as she arranges something a little more just so. I can see mine nodding with a smile when I corner the sheets on the bed.

I never thought of my mother as beautiful. If I had known how beautiful she really was, perhaps I would think better of the face I see in my own mirror.