My mum, Jill, was the best mom a kid would never ever ask for.
My aunt, let’s call her “Jack”, was the best mom a kid could never ever ask for. Because Jack, you see, was already somebody else’s mom. Two somebody’s actually.
Jack and Jill were best friends. Once upon a time.
“Jack” is my aunt on my father’s side. It was through her that my parents met. There was a gang of them, all writer’s and artist and eccentrics. People with cool names like Norbert, Jan, Lorne, Lloyd and Ursula. People who threw big parties and wore cool clothes. The gang.
Jill was spunky and feisty and way too smart. Actually my impression is that they were all too smart. Both Jack & Jill had short dark hair and wore their sexiness and their wit like a casual shall. Never too obvious, always obvious enough.
Jill went nuts. Jack didn’t.
When Jill started spiralling deeply into the world of paranoid schizophrenia she not only began to disengage from reality, but also her loved ones. Jack was not immune. It was Jack who finally pulled the plug on the toxic friendship when Jill’s illness simply took Jill over and it seemed Jill, the real Jill – was lost forever. Jill took this personally, though it was directed at the monster within, not her. She never forgave Jack. And she never forgot.
Jack, who had been named my Godmother at my birth (though none of us are religious), had a connection to me that was deep and true. I longed for her motherhood to impress upon me. I wished I could slip through the cracks and become one of her kids seamlessly. Course I still, also, wanted to be my father’s daughter and my sister’s sister…so it was all a bit complicated in my 9 year old mind.
In the years that passed I continued to become more and more disconnected from my mother. She stopped letting me visit her when I was 9 years old (for my own good she claimed, maybe she was right). When I was 12 I went to live with Aunt Jack for a year and during that time we went to my mother’s apartment in Montreal so that I could invite her to my 13th birthday. It did not go well. Jack waited outside in her car, but the mere mention that she had driven me caused Jill to become enraged. She yelled at me for even suggesting she come to Toronto. She kicked me out.
I can’t remember if I cried while sitting in Jack’s car just outside Jill’s door, but I do remember that I learned a hard lesson that day.
I gave up any hope that my mother might want to see me again.
That was likely a pivotal moment for me. As an adult and a person who has studied psycology at various times in my life I can look back and see clearly that it wasn’t just my mum I gave up on…but perhaps I gave up a bit on me too.
Hindsight is 20/20.
For the next few years I went through phases of self-harm in the forms of cutting, various forms of drug use, running away from home in the middle of the night and some rather loose sexual exploration which included one abortion at the age of 15 and one pregnancy and baby at 17 (pups). In all fairness I was at *that age* (teenager) so my mother can’t be blamed entirely, but I’m not sure self-harm by way of cutting is a normal past time for teens, nor two pregnancies in two years before the age of 18.
At the age of 16, when I had almost completely accepted that my mother was lost to me, Jill contacted me. Not only was this event in itself a challenge for me, but it came shortly after I had just had an abortion and was still reeling from it. I became severely depressed for a long time after the procedure as I had taken a long time to decide on it and was 3 months pregnant by the time I went in for the abortion. And, as if on queue it was during that depression that Jill contacted me. She requested we reconnect. I remember standing at the sink in my grandmother’s house (where I was living at the time) doing the dishes and thinking “she’s just going to come into my life and make me love her again and then vanish”.
And in a way she did just that.
The reunion was awkward at first, but soon I had mostly convinced myself that she was serious about being my mother again. We started talking regularly and visiting. I was over the moon but still suspicious. Always a bit on edge. At 17 I became pregnant with pups and my mother seemed excited albeit a 17 year old, her daughter, was having a baby. As I neared the end of my pregnancy I finally trusted that Jill was sincere about our new relationship. I felt good. My mother was back. Better than back, she was new. My uncles had done an intervention on her where they had her institutionalized for a bit and she was assessed and put on medication. I liked the medicated Jill. She was very kind to me.
Before I had this newfound trust for Jill it was Jack who I had invited to be at the birth of pups. It was Jack who I wanted at the birth to support me. But when Jill reappeared I started to reject Jack. I didn’t realized it was rejection at the time, or why I was doing it – but it’s crystal clear now.
18 days before my due date Jill jumped in front of a subway train.
I wasn’t told for two weeks.
There is about a year of my life, after pups was born, that I cannot remember. Total black out.
My ex told me I woke up screaming in the middle of the night almost every night. I don’t even remember dreaming during that time.
Luckily there are pictures.
As the years passed I glued myself back together. Jill’s memory stayed with me, but the pain she had left me with from her dramatic departure faded. Through it all Jack never faltered in her love and commitment to me as a caring family member. As I grew I started to notice this finally, and appreciate it. I spent weeks at her home in the laurentians, almost yearly for a while there. And when it came a time where I could no longer afford it – Jack surprised me once again with her endless caring and treated me and my kids to a week at the cottage. For many years, even as an adult, I never quite shook that wanting and yearning that Jack was my mother too. I understood this was a fools wish, not only because it is impossible – but also because having her as an awesome aunt and motherly figure in my life should have been enough. I struggled internally with the guilt that I didn’t think my father was enough or that I would want something that belonged to my cousins, of whom I cared so much for.
Here I stand, a 36 year old woman. And for the first time ever I actually see my mother in me. I suppose this is because I only knew her from her 34th year on (till her untimely death at 50). And though I have always had a closer bond with jack, and a hope for us to be closer still, I like seeing my mother in me. I feel connected to her in a way that only mother/daughter DNA can offer. I see her in the way my body has filled out. The way I walk, the way I stand and the way I bend. I see her spirit within me. The good, the bad and yes – even at times the ugly. Her feist and wild side live in my heart and in my mind. Some of it brings out the best in me, some brings out the worst. And yet, however much I see in me the sides of my mother that in my past broke me over and over again as a child, I know that I can control them. I’m ahead of the game that my mother lost so tragically. My father, my aunt, and once upon a time my grandmother, have all had a hand in guiding me on my path to wellness when the edge was near. Jack most of all helped me when I had my nervous break down. She spoke with me daily and supported me. I used her and she allowed it. I needed a mother at that time and she stepped in as the best substition she could offer to be. In a turn of events, ever since I have started to see Jill in me, feel her under my skin and in my way of being, I have finally shed the need to have Jack as my mother. I am finally satisfied as a woman, as a daughter, as a neice, as a person – just to be me and to let Jack be Jack, who is not my mother. And to let Jill be Jill. Who is my mother.
After all this time my reality is finally is enough.