Catherine Jackson: EarnestGirl Chronicles


Listening For The Language Our Hearts First Learn

Motherhood Legacies

She let go of the chords that tethered her here. At 96, my grandmother had lived fiercely and well. She wore her lipstick firmly in place to the end. When dignity threatened to escape her grasp she held fast to her not-inconsiderable opinions.  Her blue eyes, a little faded, newly shadowed, could nevertheless still blaze. She stunned me not by dying, but by doing it, right to her last moments, on her terms. 

Clearing out the medicine cabinet, considering the worn slippers which still hold the imprint of her footsteps, emptying a home of the life that has been thoroughly lived even if that life has mostly now been contained in two rooms and stiffening photo albums, is to sift through many strata of emotion. But I am from strong stock. From women with great legs who know how to clean a stall and wear a silk scarf, from women who know how to re-invent themselves, from women who savour the fun and drain the glass, who fully inhabit their rooms and their lives.  So I bade my grandmother farewell the best way I knew how, with lipstick on and my sleeves rolled up.

These are the events in our lives that remind us of what is important. “To every season” go those familiar verses, even if it feels cruel that the seasons should continue to turn when time as we know it has stopped for those we have loved. Sometimes when I look for my mother and find her gone, still gone, the ground opens and I fall into the gap. What I feel this time is the ground shifting beneath my feet, the irises fighting their way inevitably through the soil. Matrilineally bereft, I must nevertheless continue to move forward into this new spring.

Our mothers teach us the language our hearts first learn. Now I am trusting my heart to help my feet find their way so that my daughter will in turn find hers. 

Have you had to find your way as a mother without your own? And if so, what has helped you walk on?