Because she died so young, I’m now older than my mother. But she’s still my mother. That’s non-negotiable. I’m still struggling to be exactly like her and nothing like her.
She was – for me – paradox embodied. She could be physically violent and she was also profoundly tender – both of these completely authentic in her. Each complete when it was happening.
Like the horses.
There was a painting of two horses hanging in our living room. We moved to a new house every year – so there were many living rooms – but always the same paintings.
In this one, two horses are racing, a black horse and a brown horse.
For hours, and years I look again at the painting, sensing that one horse is ahead, then the other.
My experience of my mother, after I left home at 16, was similarly shifting. Like a shifting magnetic field. She was wonderful / she was horrible, she was deeply caring / she was violent, she was a humanist / she was a class snob. For years I struggled to make one of each pair cancel the other out.
They were contradictory. But they were all true.
That was impossible to accept.
The horses were racing. One was ahead. One would win.
The painting still hangs in my livingroom. The horses still run. The beauty is that there’s no resolution. They’re always both winning, both losing – and maybe — it never occurring to me until this moment — that the horses might not have been racing. Just two horses side by side. It’s me that thinks one needs to win. It was me who needed her to be all one thing or all another. But she was both – of everything contradictory.
And that will always be part of my life, no matter where I move.
That’s a mighty fine explanation of the paradox of my own Mom. It’s taken me a long time to realize that she was simply human, with good stuff and not-so-good stuff. But sometimes I’m still not so clear on it.
It’s hard to balance on that line, isn’t it? To accept that both are true. Even now, when I look at those horses, after all these years, I keep pulling for one, then the other of them to be ahead — unless – ha! Unless I think about the tremendous thunder of their hooves, stones and dirt flying. (Timpani and low brass – staccato, I think, no?). Then I can just glory in their running. Oh … I forgot we were talking about our moms.