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The Waste of Love
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“You know what I told him, Jackie?”
My mother was an unimaginative woman. She also was tentative, even frightened, I think, most of her life. I am judging, I know. Don’t we all judge?
My friends judge as well. They are old women too, preferring, as we all do, the comparative “older,” but we’re all of an age where our mothers died quite a while ago. The friends judge, every one of them, in favor, even sometimes in awe, of their mothers.
They recall talents they witnessed, not just in the kitchen, but mothers who purchased exquisite things, or created them, who entertained and served beautifully, who read books, who passed down wisdom, who took them to explore various places.
My mother was a good mother. She allowed me to pursue anything I wanted and supported me in those decisions. They were varied and many—endless dancing lessons–where most women as girls took a year or so of “ballet” or something. My lessons went on for ten years, many costumes. She allowed me the clarinet, then the quirky bassoon, providing lessons and reeds, permitting me to skip all housework so I could practice—both the bassoon and the piano, a piano we had donated to us. I did practice. A sewing machine. She hemmed the clothes I made, sewed on the buttons.
Whatever I wanted, I remember, I received.
Spoiled? Maybe.
I can’t blame her that we drifted apart. Even “apart” doesn’t describe anything. I think I loved her as I should love a mother because she was my mother, but I did not in any way want to be that passive, that without opinion, without a will of my own. It is telling now, now that I think about it, that after all my years of writing, this is the first time I’ve thought to write about her.
I felt that there was nothing much to say. I listen to my friends: “My mother sewed the most beautiful clothes!” or “I’ll never be able to put together a holiday meal like my mother did! Why she. . . . ” or “My mother was adored by my father, by everyone in the family, really!”
And, when I feel close enough to say, “My mother was a good mother, I think, but I never wanted to be like her, was grateful I was not,” the friend will say with concern, “Really.”
When she got older (ha! There’s the “er” qualifier), my mother, having been widowed for many years (I felt bad for her on that account—worse for myself; I loved my Dad and lost him fairly early, as did she), dated a man she really liked. Maybe loved again.
I saw her happy for the first time ever – she was in her late sixties by then and lived in Florida. I bought her tickets to come visit me in California; my husband and I traveled there, too. She dated a man, as I said, that she cared about, and he broke off with her. In Florida, a single man of a certain age was desired by many, as he well knew. So: end of that exclusive relationship with my mother.
“You know what I told him, Jackie?”
“What?” I said. I did want to know what she told him.
“I told him, ‘You will never find anyone who loves you as much as I do,’” she said, triumphantly. She felt she’d scored an accomplishment with that declaration. She did, with me. It didn’t faze him, and I knew the uselessness of it. What did he care that she wasted her love on him? But I realized how much she felt love, for him, for me too—which I knew—and hope that that too wasn’t wasted.


This represents well the complications of a mother-daughter relationship. Love the way you start and end with your conversation with your mother. Well done.

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