I am almost thirty years old, and sometimes feel as though there is nary a maternal bone in my body. This makes me wonder if my lack of maternity-mindedness may have been caused by my having lost my mother shortly after I turned thirteen. Most of my peers were solidifying their relationships with their mothers, bonding over their first periods, getting manicures together, learning how to make Sunday dinner. Girls my age were always embarrassed to be seen spending time with their mothers, but they secretly loved that time.
Sadly, my experiences with my mother are so condensed, it’s hard to believe that I still managed to turn out as feminine and prepared as other girls my age. I had to learn to mother myself I read voraciously, a trait which my mother inhibited me with, which is something I am grateful for. I never really had anyone to take me to the department stores to try on the makeup and admire the pretty business clothes. When I first met my boyfriend, it was difficult for me to fully understand the relationship that his sister maintained with their mother. His sister was my age, and she was so close with her mother that I almost viewed it as unhealthy. They were always going to the mall together, picking up designer makeup samples and buying pretty clothes for her office job. They would get manicures and pedicures together and would spend hours upon hours upon hours going to the mall and just shopping and spending time together. Sometimes, I would be included in these outings, and I confess to feeling a bit out of my element. Was I so hardened that I couldn’t appreciate these feminine activities? What was wrong with me that I was bored out of my mind and wanted nothing more than to leave the mall after enduring forty-five minutes of a shopping trip? It didn’t make sense. My boyfriend would send me on these trips knowing that I didn’t get a chance to do these sort of things with my own mother. It was a gift from him; he was sharing his own mother with me.
Now that I think about it, if my mother was still alive, I don’t think that our Saturday afternoons would have been spent at the mall. Rather, I would like to think that we would have been walking around our favorite neighborhoods in Manhattan, perusing the bookstores and finding the best coffee shops. Maybe we would be traveling together to someplace amazing. We would visit museums and tourist attractions. I never really got to experience Manhattan with my mother; I grew up in New Jersey. I wonder if I would have still moved to New York City if she was alive. Maybe I would have wanted to stay in New Jersey to be closer to her. I’m sure that I wold have finished grad school. I would probably be a high paid lawyer in a tony New Jersey suburb. My life would probably echo that of my cousins in New Jersey, the ones who I had been estranged from for over ten years now.
I probably wouldn’t have been so rebellious I would have had no need to rebel. Growing up as an outcast, I searched for the music that made me feel the most comfortable, and found that I was attracted to punk music and the punk lifestyle. Despite my muted appearance, I am an anarchist at heart, one who doesn’t believe in any sort of censoring at all, someone who gravitates towards the raciest, risqué, and loudest things that I can find. I grew up finding a shoulder to lean on in the punk rock community, and that music and lifestyle influenced so much for me I wanted to write something truly epic, something shocking and risqué, like the things that I liked to read. I wanted to go out with a dangerous boy with a penchant for rebellion, someone who listened to the same music as I did and wouldn’t mind protecting me in the mosh pit. The bands and writers and artists that I admired took a great deal of drugs and created beautiful art while under their influence, and I always knew that I would experiment with drugs and use them to boost my own creativity. I moved to New York City, I found that punk rock bad boy and fell in love with him, and we ended up becoming best friends and settling down together.
My life journey wasn’t the cushioned, idealistic one that my mother envisioned me having, the safe path that the rest of my cousins had traveled. I had moved to New York City, made a series of massive mistakes, found myself homeless for a brief period, experimented with pretty much every drug known to man, fallen in love with my dream boy who never got boring to me, experienced the New York City nightlife scene, attended raves in Washington Square Park and tripped on ecstasy as I watched the moonlight gently stream through the arches that made that park a landmark, gone to punk rock shows and lost all of my inhibitions in the mosh pit, went through a period where my love affair with drugs began to get dark, and through it all managed to make a life with the man that I loved and managed to mature and make a mark for myself in the corporate world. I just had to do all of that on my own time it wasn’t the neat, orderly journey that most girls my age embarked upon.
My mother taught me at an early age what unconditional love was. She taught me how to love unconditionally, and how to recognize it. The love that I have in my life is unconditional she taught me to settle for nothing less. When you love someone unconditionally, you love them through thick and thin, despite any of their flaws, despite any arguments, despite any rough patches your relationship may go through. When it comes to well being, you put that person ahead of yourself. My mother would have easily taken a bullet for me. I would have done the same for her. When you love someone unconditionally, you want what is best for them. I was never able to cultivate a truly mature relationship with my mother. I don’t know whether or not she would shave raised me to be adventurous in life, or to be safe and sheltered. I would like to think that she was a bohemian at heart. I saw so many pictures of her in the sixties, in beautifully coordinated hippie outfits, with long, flowing auburn hair and thick glasses that looked so perfectly retro. Sure, she grew up and ended up working as a sales tax accountant for a very esteemed company, but she only got that job because she ran away when she was sixteen, bleached her birth certificate to say that she was older than she was, and completely lied on her resume. She taught herself everything she knew. Yet deep down, she was an artist. She drew so beautifully, and she had a knack for writing such lovely short stories. She loved to read as a way to escape. She taught me that you could go on a mini vacation right in the bedroom, for twenty minutes or an hour, as long as you had that book open. The fact that such an artistic woman could have taught herself to become a fully certified ACCOUNTANT astounds me. That prospect seems so far from what I envision myself ever achieving that I basically know it is impossible. I wonder if she had any of those doubts. I’ll never know I’ll only know how courageous she was for going ahead and achieving such a difficult feat.
She probably would have put up with some experimentation on my end, but I’m sure she would have tightened the reins on me if she saw that I was headed down a bad path. Sadly, I never got that protection and forethought growing up. I had to learn everything the hard way. Maybe this is why I don’t see myself as particularly excited to have children of my own. I never really hit it off with kids because I was so shy and introverted, and the thought of trying to take charge of another being’s path in life is so daunting to me. What if my offspring inherited my rebellious tendencies? More so, I’m still not yet in a place where I feel as though I can assume maternal responsibility. I’m getting more and more mature with each passing year, and my boyfriend and I are best friends and creating such a beautiful life for ourselves that gets better with each year that goes by. Who knows maybe this was how my own mother felt about getting such a high-profile job in a field where she knew absolutely nothing about. She just went for it. Maybe that’s how maternity happens – maybe it’s not always a well thought-out thing.
Just like everything else in my life, I will have to navigate that terrain eventually. Like everything else, I will jump in, get wet, and figure out how to stay afloat.
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Kelly Renn grew up a shy outcast in suburban New Jersey, dreaming big of a life spent writing professionally in New York City. She knew that she wanted to be a writer ever since the second grade, and has been exploring and refining her writing ever since. She dropped out of Pace University a year shy of receiving a degree in English, and has been living and working in New York City for over ten years. She is an avid reader, loves rock music, edgy movies, and exploring new places and neighborhoods. She lives in Ridgewood, Queens, with her partner of twelve years. They met on Valentine’s Day, and
she is one of the few people who loves the holiday.