My Mother Is My Church
Some people go to church to feel connected: Kara Veeder goes to her mother for understanding, confessions, and unconditional love. She celebrates their relationship and its influence on her own motherhood in this story.
My Mother Is My Church
Some people go to church, I go to my mother.
It was the 1980s and Mom was driving me to a roller-skating birthday party. My green-glittered nail-polished tween hands clutched a gift on my lap for a friend. Another friend had braided my hair, inspired by Bo Derek’s head of braids that was in vogue at the time. My braids stuck out in every direction like a shaken troll doll, but I felt happy. As Mom turned the car onto the block of the house where I was to be dropped off, I suddenly felt embarrassed by my braids, incapable of walking into the party with a new look. I looked in the mirror and saw my mess of hair, glimpsed my clumpy polish. I told Mom that I didn’t want to go in like that, I couldn’t go to the party. My mom kept cruising toward the house, calm and easy.
She put a hand on my shoulder, “okay,” she said and drove right past the house. Back home in a flash, Mom called my friend’s mom to let her know we’d left the gift behind and would be a few minutes late, but we’d meet them at the skating rink, while I furiously took out my braids. Mom rushed into the bathroom, to help me wet my hair and brush it out so I could have my curls back. By then, I’d decided I loved my clumpy glittered nails. I went to the party. I remember how the disco ball made stars of light spark from my fingernails.
Mom didn’t question me, she didn’t try to talk me into anything, she didn’t encourage me to be secure. She accepted me, with unconditional positive regard, and had faith in my feelings. When I fell in love with my husband, my second soulmate after Mom, he was serving a prison sentence and I was in dental school. I was driving 650 miles round-trip each weekend to spend two hours with him at visitation. My mother knew I was in love him before I did. I’d share everything with her, how insightful he was, how tender, how kind. I’d read her excerpts from the letters we wrote each day. When she finally said that I was in love with him, I got upset. “I’m in dental school, about to start a three-year residency- he is incarcerated for years more… Mom, please! He is just my best friend! I don’t want to talk about this again.” She said, “Okay, I’m sorry. Not another word.”
Mom never said I told you so when I realized she was right. Instead, she asked how soon she could fill out a visitation form to meet the amazing man who had ignited a flame in my heart. Robert and Mom met on a sunny Sunday visit; we were able to eat outside at a picnic table. I made a tray of her homemade manicotti, and we laughed as Robert ate close to thirty of them. I watched my two favorite people, grounded together in their love for me, fall in love with each other that day- they remain deeply connected and share a devoted friendship.
My mother holds me in the highest esteem and has since I was born. Mom was married at 19, and widowed with three small boys under five when she was only 27. She married my father a few years later. Together they raised their combined six children and then had me. Mom gave birth to her best friend on the day that I was born. This has been how it's been for every day of my 50 years on this planet.
Mom’s love is the sacred space of my life. Her love alchemizes my mistakes, failures, heartbreaks into beauty, art and stories. When I call my life chaotic, my mother calls it masterful. When I call my ability to be a mother messy, my mother calls it exemplary. When I call my creative endeavors play, my mother calls them magic. Over the years, this sometimes made me feel like she lacked discernment in my abilities, that she lacks the ability to see faults within me. Yet, now that I am lucky enough to have a daughter of my own, I finally recognize the gift Mom gave me of having a mother who only sees you shine, even when you have tarnished times.
My mother is my church, her love is my grace, her perspective is my prayer.