May 14, 2017 (Sunday)

by Yule Heibel on May 13, 2018

Today, during meditation, I had a very strong feeling that I do always expect someone to “rescue” me. Now, I’m unsure what this feeling actually meant, but I suspected it was prompted, somehow, by today being Mother’s Day. At the same time, I sort of “knew” that it wasn’t my actual mother on whom I relied for rescue – but at the same time, I had to recognize something incredibly fierce and domineering about her (which was also a trait inherited to varying degrees by my sisters, who I did see as a moveable parade of substitute mothers).

Except H.E., of course. She was always the older sister, incredibly powerful, but never a substitute mother. B. perhaps occasionally straddled both realms, but she too was rarely substitute mother, and mostly merely older sister. Which also means she inspired less and lectured more.

My substitute mothers were much more mythical in terms of general qualities. Awesome, in a weird way. Perhaps slightly mysterious, by virtue of being so far ahead of me in age that all of their developmental travails were incomprehensible to me. Since the two “regular” older sisters were closer in age (although emigration ripped that relationship apart, too, leaving me to grow up as an “only”), they had issues I could somehow intuit.

Even B., just over twelve years older than I, had issues and worries I could identify, even though I was still years away from encountering them myself. She was rather flat-chested, unlike her older sisters (my substitute mothers), and it caused her lots of teenage grief. Once, I discovered in the trash a bottle of lotion she had finally tossed, perhaps in frustration – although it was empty, so she had used it, except not to the final drops for I was able to extract some last remnants to rub onto my chest. It was a product that promised to grow your bosom, a promise that B., at seventeen (cue Janis Ian), wanted to believe. So she tried one of these “miracles in a bottle,” which always turn out to be mostly water, so you’d think drowning yourself in the stuff would instantiate the hoped-for miracle.

When I found the essentially empty bottle  and smeared some remaining drops on my own very young and very flat and very undeveloped five-year-old chest, I had a strong inkling of what it was supposed to do, to effect. And I was half-afraid it might – how would I then explain a bosom to my family? But at the same time, I already intuited I’d eventually develop a bosom because I could see the older sisters developing in that general direction, the two who were  twelve and seven-and-a-half years older. So, even if I hurried things along with miracle lotions, I was still well within the natural order of things as I could see it.

This “seeing the development” was not possible with the substitute mothers: they were too advanced and well into a biological state I somehow couldn’t fathom. E. was already a mother twice over by the time I was barely five. S.U. was a mother. And on it went. Motherhood was a book of seven seals to me, I didn’t understand why anyone would do it. It seemed (as my mother conveyed to me) a penalty. Motherhood was penalizing, like a job you couldn’t quit – not that I knew about jobs, really, but I knew about work.

To be a girl was interesting. To be a woman was perhaps interesting. To be a mother seemed like nothing but endless work. I could only absolve myself of being a constant source of endless work for my mother by growing up faster – which was not a great way to spend a childhood (certainly not a carefree way), nor terribly logical since at some level growing up meant possibly becoming a mother, too, and hence being locked into an endless chain of work.

I did not want to marry, and I certainly did not want to have children myself – not until I was far removed from my own mother, until she was quite old and lived thousands of miles away. When I was still her young child and my substitute mothers had already provided her with several grandchildren, I could see that she also never played the proud and happy gran. These children were all a source of worry and work, and therefore disappointment. From whom, then, have I expected rescue?

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: