relationships

The Big Whine

Family early years

Me and Mom – photo taken probably a year after our family’s U.S. arrival – early 1950’s.

There is never a good time to come to terms about a relationship. The entire focus of Letters from the Box in the Attic is showing how brave, selfless, and wonderful my mother was throughout her life. This was all true, but how does a daughter live with that perfect person who was her mother?

Not always well. Adolescence and adulthood has a way of making that so. Any perfect person is still a human being, not without flaws or weaknesses. In writing the book, I thought about introducing a chapter about the ups and downs Mom and I had, or at least referring to them but decided it would come across as me whining. Therefore there are no references. I felt the need to hold her up on a pedestal, because she was the rock of our family and she needed to be treated with the utmost respect and love.

As with many mothers and daughters not all things were perfect at home with Mom and me, and even after I was married and moved away, that periodic friction continued. I even felt the need to read the book, My Mother Myself, by Nancy Friday.  After reading the book I felt more satisfied knowing that there is no sin to being similar to your mother. Some of a mom’s best traits may end up being your own. I shared with my own mom a love of nature’s beauty and color; a strong feeling of justice; and the strong bond of family. The conflicts which surfaced were petty in nature, and in my case it was simply communication, or the lack of it, which was my doing.

When I went away to college, my mother wanted me to call her once a week. But back in the day, a long time ago, college dorms had one pay telephone per floor, not in individual rooms, allowing for no privacy, and of course there were no cell phones. How did we exist! I really resented this exercise, because I did not like to be obliged to call and talk about things she did not understand. She did not go away to school and even if she had, it would have been in another country and during another time. How could she relate? A person should call when they wanted to, was what I thought. But how often would I have called? She knew she needed to stay in touch with her daughter.

Out of respect and love I did as I was told, I called every week. Even with keeping up this practice over the years, the looser was my mom, because there were fewer and fewer things we talked about. Once I moved away from her area and had children of my own the conversations did turn to those kids,  their actitivies and school progress which we talked about. I also blamed my deteriorating Polish language skills as the years went on as a reason for the created wedge between us. It’s hard to explain something in a language you only use once a week, so it was easier not to try. To my own discredit, I think I just did not like to be told what to do.

I always thought of myself as a serious career oriented person who needed to work to be fulfilled. At this time in my life I don’t feel as emphatic about that. My little family had the opportunity to move several time while my children were young, and that caused my career paths to change a few times. Each time I found employment and a purpose at these destinations, Mom brought up the fact that it’s good that I was contributing to the household, but my feeling was that I really wanted to work because it was important to me. Maybe all I was doing was contributing a bit financially,  but at the time, I felt so misunderstood.

The strong bond of family is also what I shared with my mother. Doing what it takes to keep family together is important to me. There were times I would think of my mom as a door mat becasue she wanted to please everyone. I felt that she did not stand up for herself when criticized. Despite initially blaming my dad for causing Mom not to defend herself especially when he would verbally abuse her while drinking, I believe I was the best at projecting that image on to her. She was a genuine giver. It was important to her that she give of herself to her family. The door mat syndrome is a by-product of being a giver, of wanting to please. When you care about your family it’s easy to become a door mat. The idea of a parent’s unconditional love is quite compelling. The unconditional love of a parent is a gift to her children and then there is the hope that the love goes both ways. I was blessed to have had my mother’s unconditional love and it was returned, despite any ups and downs of life.

To learn more about my mom read Letters from the Box in the Attic, a Story of Courage, Survival and Love – Available on Amazon.

 

When is a House a Home?

What is a house? Is it just shelter?

For some people who may be homeless, an apartment is shelter. It can be a one room rental and still be home as well as shelter. What makes a house special? I think it all depends on who lives there – a roommate to share the space for company, a significant other, a spouse, a pet or family members.

During my early life I lived in a variety of places which took me from England to our first apartment in the United States. We then moved to a series of walk-up apartments before my parents bought their first home. This one and only house is where my parents stayed, never to move again. For my parents living in that house meant that they had arrived; they had their piece of the pie. They owned it and had stability and security. Sewickley home (2)

My brother and I did not live there long, but still called it home. After going away to college, neither one of us returned to that house to live. During my married life, I experienced living in several apartments, eventually we bought our first home, then built a house and sold the first one. We then transferred to another state, found a rental house until we sold the one we built. We then bought a house in the new state only to be transferred several years later. The saga went on. There were multiple moves after that. When do roots become important to promote that security and stability? One might say once children are born; yet we moved three children multiple times.

Each of those moves was traumatic for my kids and for us as parents because we left friends, but not so much because of the houses themselves. We left several really nice houses behind, but that’s what they were – houses, just shelter. Don’t get me wrong, leaving each of the houses was hard because they each had some unique feature. We do get attached to things. But the memories that were grown in those houses we take away with us when we leave. I have to remember this now as we contemplate downsizing and moving!

I suppose feeling that human connection in life is what makes us happy or leaving them makes us sad. What makes a house a home is the people in them or around them. This is what I found important in my relationships with houses. For my parents, they moved around a lot as well. Yet for them, finding an anchor was important, since their lives had been so unstable and disrupted during and after World War II. They also wanted to feel rooted to a community since they had no family around.

My mother lived in her little house for twenty-eight years, all by herself, after my dad passed away. She kept up with the house repairs and yard upkeep because that property was hers and ultimately too important to neglect or sell. It was only after her stroke when she could no longer live alone did she move out. It was very sad to have to sell the house after she was in a nursing home for over a year. I was sad for her; my attachment to it was only that it was her precious house. All she wanted to do was to go home.

Weddings and Anniversaries – a Tribute

Recently I attended two weddings. The first one was my own daughter’s wedding, my youngest, which was in the planning process for months and the other one was  my niece’s wedding. Both were well organized and each was a distinctive celebration. Each wedding had a beautiful weather day, with a striking setting, and both receptions were good parties. But I must admit my daughter’s was by far the best. I may be a bit partial, however.

Anniversaries are time honored milestones in a marriage and recently my son and daughter-in – law celebrated their 8th anniversary. Remembering my own wedding 46 years ago feels like it was not that long ago. Then I recall the day my parents celebrated their anniversary every year, October 3rd, which is today. They would have been married 74 years had they lived. My dad predeceased mom by 30 years and every year when October 3rd rolled around, mom would count the number of years they would have been married had he lived. Many people seem to revel in the numbers as if it were a badge of courage they wear surviving so long with their partner.

Getting back to the two weddings I recently attended, I can only speak to the preparations for my daughter’s wedding. She painstakingly made sure all her details were nailed down. As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details”. Her wedding was perfectly orchestrated and simply lovely, a fairy tale wedding. She was a radiant bride who also had fun at her own wedding.Samantha and Braden 162

The wedding planning process seems to change over time as new concepts and fun activities for guests or wedding party members enter into the planning. Being married almost a half a century, at the time of my wedding, there were no bachelorette parties. Comfort items for guests now include goody bags at hotel check in for out of town guests.  Receptions are usually elaborate to keep guests entertained and well fed.

My thoughts now go back to when my parents were married. It was October 3, 1943 in an army tent, in the Palestinian desert. Their life was in the middle of World War II. They were both in the Polish Second Corps which was the reorganized Polish fighting force made up of both men and women, many of whom were once exiled to Stalin’s Siberia. In Stalin’s Soviet Union they were slave laborers deported out of their homes, political prisoners, or POW’s following the invasion of Poland in September 1939. My parents each had their horror stories from the invasion of their country and all the repercussions that followed.

They had met each other the winter before the war started in mom’s home town, and somehow miraculously found each other during the war, after each was released from captivity and then struggled to make it to where the army was forming. My mom was able to join the protection of the army by becoming an auxiliary support person, a nurse. She received nurse’s training in Tehran, Iran and my dad became a fighting soldier again, as a light artillery specialist, which was his training before the war. Many of their stories I share in my upcoming book, “Letters from the Box in the Attic, A Story of Courage, Survival and Love”.

Their many post-war struggles kept them together for 36 years, until my dad died in 1979. It amazes me that I’ve been married 10 years longer than they were. I am very fortunate to still have my spouse and to keep clocking up those years. Wedding vows usually say, for better or for worse and my parents kept their devotion to each other alive during their married life, even though some of the time their relationship was rocky. Here’s to devotion and for better or for worse!

Happy Anniversary, Mama and Tatuś! I hope you are able to celebrate 74 years on this your anniversary.

Grandma’s Simple Family Values

Samantha’s wedding is this coming week; finally here after so much planning.  As the mother of the bride, I need to reflect not only about my baby, but on how family has influenced my life and the family relationships which develop. The dawn of a new life which my baby and her fiancee are about to enter, has arrived. The memories I have of Samantha as a child, I hope I never forget as I grow older and seeing the young woman she has become, makes me proud. But when did this little girl grow up? She did so right before my very eyes, and now brings with her a young man to complement our family. As our family is about to become larger, we will be forever be connected not only to her fiancee but to his family.

May I just say that we are blessed to love our soon to be son-in-law and his parents, including their other son, his wife and their babies. As we add other families into ours, we continue to be blessed, as with the addition of our daughter-in-law and her family.

Now what would grandma, my mom, say about her youngest granddaughter getting married, if she were alive? She has been gone for a while in time, but never far from the heart.

She would be thrilled that Samantha is so happy and about to be married. Simply put, she would say, if Samantha loves Braden; then I love him as my new grandson. It’s as simple as that. Her family values were not complicated. They were a reflection of how she viewed the world – that family comes first.

The future is bright for Samantha and Braden and we trust they will be happy. As a mother, I wish I could wave a magic wand over my daughter and her fiancee’s heads to assure their happiness. In the meantime I just need to trust and love.

We welcome Braden and his mom and dad, his brother and his young family to our family. We are now forever connected.