My mother had one of them and I ended up with two of them and it still amazes me! Daughters!
I was the only girl in the family. I had three brothers. All I knew were boys. In fact, I was a tomboy. I loved exploring pastures, playing in the hayloft of the barn, enjoying our offbeat pets: a skunk, a snake, and a raccoon. I wasn’t a girlie girl at all. In fact, my mother probably thought she had four boys and no daughter during most of those early years.
I hated getting my hair pulled back into ponytails. Maybe that’s why I had a pixie cut most of my childhood.
I was impatient. I couldn’t stand still long enough for Mother to find the just-right hem length for the dresses she made me (although I very much enjoyed wearing them when they were completed). Most of the time I wanted to be in dungarees running around outside.
I got more girlie in high school although I loved hanging out with my twin brother’s friends. They would come to the house and play cards and tell jokes. It was easy hanging out with boys.
When my son Trevor was born, it was groovy, fabulous, wonderful. A boy! I understood boys! I was comfortable around boys! Bring on the boys!
And then three years later something weird happened: a girl came into our family! And nearly three years after that, another one was born. Now I had a son and two daughters, Erin and Caitlin.
Girls! I was baffled! What do you do with girls?
Well, it’s been a long study. And I’m still learning.
One thing that’s been interesting is to stand on the outside looking in on something that I’ve never experienced: sisterhood.
Sisters fascinate me! My mother had seven sisters. I have friends with sisters. I listen to sister stories and I’m in awe. What a world! Maybe it’s like being an only child hanging around kids who have siblings. I can’t understand it because I’ve never had the experience myself.
I remember one time when the girls were arguing in the back seat of the car as I was driving them to school. I pulled over and stopped the engine and turned to them and said, “You have no idea how lucky you are. You are sisters! You have each other! I never got to have a sister! You’re LUCKY! Now stop it!” They got quiet. I think they were stunned by my outburst.
Mothers and daughters
One time when I was nearly forty, I was in the back seat of the car with my parents. We were driving to Vergas, MN to a little market where they make homemade sausage. It’s a family favorite. I asked them if we kids turned out like they thought we would.
My mom said, “Brenda, I never ever thought you’d leave home at eighteen. I couldn’t have imagined that. But I can appreciate the courage it took to move away.”
Of course, I think about that now. I’ve struggled much of my adult life wondering if I should be living in Minnesota instead of California. Although friends have insisted they’d plan an intervention if I ever thought of moving, the pull of family and “home” is strong. It wasn’t until I moved to Sonoma where I’m surrounded by crops and fields of sheep that I’ve finally felt like I was in the right place. Farmland comforts me.
But today I have remorse about having moved so far away so long ago. What I wouldn’t do to have more time with my mother…
Long distance loving
Goodbyes were hard even when we knew we’d be seeing each other in a few months. I’d be getting ready to leave after spending ten days or so every summer with Mom and Dad at the lake in Minnesota. I could feel my stomach starting to knot up. Those goodbyes were impossible. Mom and I would cry and cry in each other’s arms. I’d finally pull away and stumble to the rental car and stare out the window all the way to Fargo, soaking in the flat farmlands that were familiar to me, feeling so torn.
I’d usually see them again in October when we’d go to the Hostfest together in Minot, North Dakota. It became a ritual in my adulthood that I cherished. It was our thing. My brothers never went. They just heard our stories about it. It’s a five-day Scandinavian festival held in the fall. Lots of food, singing, concerts, shopping, laughing and visiting with relatives and strangers.
I have so many art objects in my home that came from shopping at the Hostfest with my mom. I have a couple of unique coats I bought there, too. She’s pretty good at helping me spend my money! Those coats are almost too warm to wear in California but when I do, I always get compliments and think of her. She would say of the high price tag, “Brenda, you deserve it! You work hard. Buy it!”
We had lots of plans this winter. Mom and Dad were coming out here in January and Mom and I had a few mother/daughter field trips planned. We were so excited! I was giving her advice on the phone about what to pack for the trip. And then two days later, everything changed.
There’s been a lot on my emotional plate these last months. I’m not feeling very courageous right now. In spite of the deep loss, I am feeling grateful. I have a great family.
I’ve held my breath year after year hoping that my children wouldn’t move 2000 miles away. I don’t want to experience what my mother had to experience. Heck, I don’t want them to move 200 miles away! Although Trevor travels a far amount, everyone lives within an hour’s drive from each other.
As this Mother’s Day rolls around, I’m sad to not have my own mother to talk to, but I’m grateful for my son and my two daughters who will be making dinner for me and showering me with their precious love. I will find comfort there.
(Photo of Erin and Caitlin by Russ Gelardi)