Mother's Day and I can not help but remember my Mom, my Mami. I had turned three when this photo was taken by my Dad. I got to wear white knee socks in new black shiny shoes and this very pretty white, winged, lacey dress. I still remember my excitement in getting dressed for our outing, while still in the bedroom of our old apartment up on the hill among the well-to-do rich folks. An area of town we would abandon 3 years later in favor of a working class neighborhood with more suitable friends for me, my parents thought, I disagreed.
I loved physical proximity with my Mom, sitting on her lap, holding hands or snuggling up in bed on Sunday mornings. Mami knew how to make reeds sing, I never learned. Mami liked to laugh, whistle and sing especially while riding her bike. I learned to like that as well. For a while, I rode on back of her bike until my foot got caught between the spokes right near our central train station in Zürich. I still remember the spot and how scared I had gotten, probably screamed more in fright than actual pain. I remember Mami's brown sunglasses and brown, wooden pearl necklace, the one I eventually inherited. I also remember a pin of a little black elephant she liked to wear with her gray striped suit. Eventually, that pin graced my black felt hat, until I lost it at our dog park. I also inherited a black elephant sculpture she must have brought back from Kenya, one of those various vacations to Africa my working-class parents treated themselves to. Mami loved to travel, loved geography and loved to explore and made sure they had plenty of opportunities to do just that.
I was born with black hair just like my Dad's but only a year after this photo was taken the hairdresser found my first white hair on the top of my head. I remember it clearly, the young hairdresser's loud exclamation, expressing her surprise to the whole hair salon. I was not sure if I should be embarrassed or pleased. Like my Mom and before her Dad, I too was to turn gray early on, but unlike my Mom, I swore to myself to never ever dye my hair, not a fake blond or an odd blue, ever. Mami was frequently mistaken for my grandmother by strangers, but my Mami was not old in spirit. Mami was energetic, expressive when she wanted to be, and she was the only Mom that ever played hide & seek with the whole gang of us kids and afterward treated us all to some chocolate.
Decades later I learned that what I had believed to be my good friend from across the street, who frequently came over to our home, came not so much because of me, but because of my Mom. Because Mami was so different, not kindly looked upon by her very conservative, fundamental Christian parents. My Mom smoked in public. Over the phone, Mami's voice would frequently be mistaken as that of a man. My Mom could be loud. Mami could laugh so hard I could hear her across the department store where she worked in the wine department. Those women working under younger men would drop wine bottles on purpose, on occasion only, so they could finish up the content and have some fun. Unlike her Dad, my Mom did not overdue it with alcohol, I have never seen her drunk ever, not even close.
My Mom insisted on her bread and butter - and meat, steak preferably, but neither one of my parents were alcoholics. I am grateful. I always believed myself to be vulnerable to addiction and therefore stayed clear of most addictive substances. While still in ninth grade, I rebelled by stealing and smoking my Dad's hidden cigarettes, those he really never touched and had gotten for free in cute little packages. The desire to smoke left me as suddenly, at the age of nineteen, as it appeared, at the age of 15. Same goes for the desire for meat that had left me the moment I had left my parent's home to live on my own. To this day I will trade in a bar of chocolate for a piece of meat anytime unless it is Hershey's kind of an abomination of what goes for chocolate in the US.
Today I am grateful for the good memories I do have with my Mom. We were estranged from since I was a teen to a year prior to her passing. It was painful. It seemed impossible. I moved to another continent with an ocean to separate us. Mothering is not easy and does not come naturally to those that have not gotten it right from the start. Wounds heal, the best we can do is try to keep our hearts soft and care to the best of our abilities. To all Mothers that try to do their best and love the best they know how.