Death is the mother of Beauty; hence from her, alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams and our desires.

21 Nov

“Your grandmother loved horses. Your grandmother was even worse when she combed my hair-she gave me afro perms! Your grandmother hated mice. Your grandmother was the bravest person I will ever know.”

I tell Vivian stories of my mother like she’s real, like she exists and is just away on a long trip somewhere, maybe riding camels in the Sahara to bring Ngiri his Jungle Drums, maybe in Europe, drinking milky tea in some fabulous cafe.

That’s not right. My mother wouldn’t have wanted to travel. My mother would have rather been holed up somewhere with her sewing machine, maybe some pencils to draw with, some opera music. She’s sounds pretty awesome as I detail what I do remember-creative, open to new, “intellectual” things. But the truth, the things I’ll leave out until the girls are old, those things are colder and harder to remember.

Like how she relied mostly on corporal punishment, or at least that’s what stands out in my mind. How she had rigid ideas about what I should be, do or look like. How I was wrong for liking “boy” things.

I’m no more immune to making my mother a saint, or a devil than anyone else. When I was younger, I transferred my anger at her for leaving to anger over the fact that she’d hit me sometimes when I misbehaved. But I was wrong to judge her choices, and her behaviours. I was a stubborn, defiant precocious child who pushed each and every button imaginable. I was also shy, timid and mostly in my own head.

Now that I’m a parent, I understand my mother on a level I never did before. I understand the spanking. I understand the desire to mold me into some image that she held so dear-after all, she waited for a little girl for years. That I turned out to be the complete antithesis of the girl she envisioned wasn’t her fault. Her fault was her inability to let me be the girl I wanted, even if at the time, what I wanted to be was a boy.

She wanted many things for me, I’m sure. I stare at my daughters and try to imagine all the dreams my mother held for me, all the moments she wanted to share and yet lost. All the futures that weren’t.


“I love you Mommy, you’re beautiful.”

“You’re beautiful too Viv. And strong, and smart, and awesome.”

“Thanks Mum.”


I have dreams too. Dreams of cookies at Christmas, skating on crackly ice on black and clear nights, summer afternoons spent lazing in the backyard. Graduations, weddings, grandchildren. I see it stretching out in front of me like a ball of yarn, unspooled and tangled.

But dreams can die, or be broken. Knots form. Children have a tendency to not do what you think you want. All I want for them right now is their happiness-will that change? Will I become hung up on the colors they prefer, they boyfriends/girlfriends they choose, the friends they become attached to? Will I deny them my love over something as trivial as what they want with their life?

It is their life. The one failure I believe my mother had was not acknowledging MY life, and my right to find it. I comfort myself with the knowledge that adolescence would have been incredibly difficult if my mother would have been alive, although not as difficult as it was without her.

But I never grew to hate her, as so many friends did, at least for awhile. So many people threw those vile words “I hate you!” at their mothers for such little grievances, no new jeans, no lunch packed, no new haircut, while I sat and pined and wished I had a mother to hate. I was spared these indignities at least.


Someday, I will take Vivian, middle name Dianne for my mother, I will take her and show her. This is where your mother grew up. This is where your mother lost a piece of her soul on a rainy April morning. This is where I began. This grave is where I grew older. This river is what washed away a multitude of tears.

This place, this town, that town I turned my back on so long ago, that place is where I really begin.

5 Responses to “Death is the mother of Beauty; hence from her, alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams and our desires.”

  1. daisybones November 21, 2007 at 10:26 am #

    You tear me apart, Thor. But it’s OK, because really I’m already torn and you remind me someone else is too. Your stories really more than anything make me realize how my adult relationship with her was an incredible gift. I hate that you lost her at the worst age I can imagine… Mother of God, I am a ray of sunshine for you, today….fuck. I’m sorry.


    I want to make Molly a story book / scrapbook thing about my mom. The idea that my mom will be as removed and abstract and distant as my grandfather was to me (died when mom was 13) breaks my heart.

    I have a really hard time with that idealization of the dead thing. I hate when I notice that my parenting style is different and I cling to the little things I know we shared- like that our instincts both make us *need* to sleep with our babies- only my dad wouldn’t ‘let’ her, so it’s like I’m fulfilling her needs retroactively as well as mine.

  2. bine November 21, 2007 at 11:16 am #

    so sad. i think it will be lovely for your daughters to walk the streets where your mother lived, where you grew up. to learn more about her, but also about you. they may throw nasty words at you one day about silly teenage things, but they will always love you for sharing your world with them.

  3. nursemyra November 22, 2007 at 6:54 am #

    you write so beautifully. your daughters are lucky to have a mother with such a talent, what a legacy to pass on… x

  4. thordora November 22, 2007 at 9:14 am #

    Thank you myra. (and as an aside, I’d make it to your site more if I wasn’t always online at work. I’m sure your site would send some flags up on our filters. 🙂 )

    Daisy, I understand completely. I want my mother to be real, but I know that deep down, she won’t be. It makes me sad.

    Bine, I can’t wait to take them. I couldn’t wait to get out of that lonely little town, but I can’t wait to take them to it.

  5. marcelarhodus November 23, 2007 at 12:04 am #

    our parents, no matter their ups and downs, always live with us as we strive to do what they did right and fight to avoid what they did wrong.

    once we have children, we can see that it is not that we mean to be/do wrong, life happens and we make mistakes. And yes, we must keep working each and every single day to make a memory that counts, for we know not which ones they will remember.

    your girls will know her through you and maybe that day you take them to her town and yours, all of you together will get to know her even more.

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