Category Archives: coming of age

Jack and Jill. A Story Of Another Mother.

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.

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Filed under ADHD, autism, coming of age, death, funny, strength, Transition

Sixteen Candles.

My daughter just got the party of her life. It was grand, it was big, I’m redundant, it was awesome.

I didn’t throw it for her.

I’m not upset about this. Seriously, I’m not. She’s lucky she got anything at all! Hell, I’m not a “throw a sweet sixteen” type of mom. I’m a “get you your first tattoo” type of mom. So sue me.

First of all, let it be noted that I never got a sweet 16 party.

I’m not sour about it, I just don’t know anything about throwing this type of shindig. Well, other than what MTV has taught me…

But I never expected a sweet 16. That wasn’t our style anyway (my family) – and in any case my NanaNat had thrown me an extravagant and expensive Bat Mitzvah when I turned 13 (as only a waspy blond shiksa might), complete with me getting “secretly” drunk with all my closest and not so close friends, really long and boring speeches made by myself and my family, and many – MANY – family members and family friends of whom I had no recollection of but who all said “Oh look how much you’ve grown! A young lady now!”. This party was the start of a new tradition within our very waspy family (though my sister and I are technically – yes actually – Jewish, by birth right) where every child who turned 13 was given a special ‘coming of age’ party. It began with me, went on to my cousins and eventually it came to Pups. I did not throw her an extravagant party though. Instead I invited all the most important and influential women in her life at that time and we all shared stories of coming of age and how we were connected to Pups in one way or another. We spoke of womanly things and memories and lessons we learned along the way through our various stages and ages. And Pups, as is her style, took it all in grace. I am positive that this was not the most thrilling ‘party’ she had ever had, in fact I am willing to bet that her Easter egg hunt parties when she was little far surpassed this get together of women. Still she exuded the elegance and stature of a true hostess and grateful daughter. I was not only proud of her, I was in awe of the future her, the woman that I got to see in her that day.

And what an experience it is to see someone grow and change and learn and blossom. Yup, I said “blossom”.

She was born on a beautiful Wednesday filled with sunshine and warm breezes. It was 2:38pm when she arrived and the weather channel reported it was a high of 13 degrees outside. I remember that. I watched the day pass from the hospital window, the sun shone in and filled the room with vitamin D. She was born big – 8lbs 6oz – and round and red! She looked like a little Buddha.

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She was perfect.

16 years have passed and I have been witness to a baby turn into a girl and that girl turn into a young woman. A young woman with dreams and aspirations of dancing and becoming a chemist. I have watched her childlike curiosity turn to real life experiences that teach you and even, sometimes, age you. From an innocent child to a woman with a sense of her own sexuality and a strength in her beliefs and morals based on fairness and equality. A yearning to never stop learning, so much like my sister and mother. An openness to new things and the courage not only to recognize right from wrong, but the courage to do something about it.

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Seriously…I got to watch that all happen right before my eyes guys!

It’s weird to know that my baby, my first, is 16. That I have been a parent, a mother, for 16 years. For half my life I was a teenager, and before I even grew up I was a parent to someone.

Half my life a child, half my life a mother. We grew up together she and I. In many ways she kept me young and I matured her before her time. For a long while we were more like sisters than mother and daughter. So much so that her respect towards me does not come from a natural and expected respect of your mother, but a mutual and earned respect that enabled her – from a young age – to call me on my faults. She has no idea how much she changed my life, or how much she changed me. She was the best mistake I ever made. Because having a baby at 17 is a mistake, do not doubt that. I stunted my education, my career, my young adult experiences that are so vital to grow into someone wise. But having her, well let’s just say that as hard as it was, I have never, not for one millisecond, regretted her. She truly is the best mistake I ever made. She grew me up and taught me how to live.

Her story is so different from my own story, and because of this she is so different – better – than I was then. I can say that, not only because it’s true, but because it really is true. She is SO smart, too smart. She is SO beautiful. Too beautiful. And she is witty and funny and elegant. She is nerdy and goofy and opinionated. She not perfect at all which adds to her awesome. She always has been, and I’m pretty sure she always will be: awesome.

Unless of course she becomes some crazy psycho killer or something… but I think that is highly unlikely, she hasn’t drowned any kittens yet.

So, with all that said, I have to admit – that although I am not a “throw your kid a sweet sixteen” type of mom, I am so appreciative that her step-mom is. In true Filipino style and tradition her step-mom and her dad threw her a giant, extravagant, expensive, super fun, “sweet 16!”. And they are awesome for it.

Because if anyone deserves a really big and super-fun party, Pups does.

Happy birthday Puppy.

In a couple of years I’ll take you for that first tattoo. That’s how this mommy rolls. 😉

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My not so “Sweet Sixteen”

When I was 16 my mother, who had been, by her own accord absent from my life since I was 9 – decided to come back into my life. I immediately knew something was amuck. What her plan was I couldn’t be clear on except that I was certain the end result would leave me in pain…

I was right.

She became quite involved in my life for the next year. She visited with me at my home, something she had sworn she would never do because the city I live in was filled with the FBI and evil anglophones (schizophrenia, go figure), she met my partner at the time, invited me to her home in Montreal with my sister. She had me cut her hair! Which was both strange and nostalgic as I hadn’t been this close to her since my childhood and I was surprised she chanced me messing up her hair or that she trusted me with scissors. She was present enough in my life that when I became pregnant she was able to watch my belly grow and stretch for a short while – and although she didn’t come, she was in my life when I had a shot gun wedding (not my proudest moment).

It was a peculiar time in my life as I was completely overjoyed (in a little kid before their birthday party kind of way) that she was so committed to being my mom again and at the same time completely suspicious of her intentions.

Convinced this was not going to end well, I kept my back up. I stayed on guard. Never sure when ‘it’ would happen – when she would leave again. By the end of my pregnancy and after a year of reconnection that happened during my pregnancy, I had finally begun to trust that her intentions were sincere. Maybe she really did want to be my mom again. To be in my life. I was excited for her to meet her first grandchild, excited that she would be at the birth. Two weeks before Pups was due, 5 months before I was to turn 18, on March 8th, 1997 – International Women’s Day – (of course it had to be a day with some sort of feminist political significance) she packed all the leases from every place she’d ever lived into her backpack and threw herself in front of a subway train – or ‘metro’, if you are from Quebec.

That was 16 years ago. A day does not go by when I don’t think of how much she’s missed. Or how much I miss her. This year, on March 8th (which is never really a celebration of women around the globe for me but instead a reminder of the woman in my life that died that day – on purpose) I did as I always do. I wrote my sister an email, and I updated my status with “today I remember my mother”. But as the days grow closer to my eldest child’s 16th birthday, this anniversary of her death is more than just a memory of her but it is growing into a recognition of how important it is that a girl have a positive and influential woman figure in her life. Not just one from books, but one that you can touch. A real person to guide you, and argue with you, and love you no matter what. One that hugs you tight when times are tough with all the love she can muster, even if you say you hate her.

Even if you really do hate her.

When I was 16 my mother came back into my life and then promptly left it again. Leaving me feeling cheated and hurt, confused and angry.

In two days my child, the child that was in my belly at the time of my mother’s chosen demise, will be 16. In a way I can thank my mom for teaching me what not to be for my child. For teaching me the hard way how much a mother means to a child, even if she is never there. So I must make the most of all my time with my children. Not just because they are my kids, or they have anxiety, or autism or diabetes. But because I am their mother. This isn’t just a title, it’s a responsibility. More than that it is a gift. If these children end up fucked up – I’m pretty sure it’s all on me.

It really is too bad my mother decided to leave this world before her time, she was a really cool lady I’m told by her past friends. She was smart and sexy and neat. A peculiar sort of character that made you want to know her better. I think I would have quite liked her. I also think she would have really liked Pups.

I think she would have liked me too.

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Filed under Borderline Personality Disorder, coming of age, death, funny, strength, Transition