The 3 Women Who Raised Me
As we approach Mother's Day; I would like to offer my thoughts about the 3 women who raised me. This offering is one of gratitude and free flowing thoughts; thank you for reading. I would love to hear about women who raised you in the comments, if you are so moved to share.
I was born in 1970 to my mom and my father; a young couple in southern California. I am told my mom's parents checked in on me often and from that very young age I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, especially my gram (grandma Jean). Jean is a name that has made its way to my granddaughter now; my mom changed the spelling from her middle name Jean, to mine Jeanne. My daughter has the middle name Jeanne, as well as my daughter's daughter. My gram would be so thrilled by that. My gram passed in 2020, I was 50 and a grandma by then and she would say "wow, my granddaughter is a grandma, that's so amazing and strange" with a smile on her face, gleam in her eye; she was amazed at how long she lived and "never imagined" she would live to see her grandchildren be grandparents; it's wild for me to think about now as I consider my own gift of aging and having grandchildren.
For me, my gram was a safe place to snuggle; always a larger woman, I recall clearly telling her how much I loved her softness (she would giggle and say things like "you mean because I am fat"), I know now, it wasn't just her physical softness, but her energy to me was always consistently soft, in all the nurturing ways. She was a good listener when I was in my teen angst years and made me feel like she was always on my side and at the same time never bad mouthing my mom when I would complain like teen daughters do about their moms. Growing up she got me a doll every Christmas and I can still see her face, how it lit up to my excitement over loving dolls (my mom, her only daughter, was more of a 'tomboy' so I filled that girly vibe for my gram I am sure).
In my early adult years, when I was really struggling and in a very physically abusive relationship; I asked for her help and she very firmly and directly instructed me as follows; I swear I can hear her stern tone to this day as she said, "Kellie Jeanne, I will help you, but if you go back to him, I will never help you again; you have put your mom through so much, no more. You deserve better and your family is tired of worrying about you, do you understand? you get out and don't go back". (as I type that I get choked up, because I didn't just save myself and my baby alone, my gram saved us, my mom saved us, my best friend saved us; we have to save ourselves of course, but we are never really alone in the saving). My gram was there for every major life event and transition; I am so very grateful and miss her every day. I can hear her now saying "oh Kel, don't cry honey, I miss you too".
My mom's best friend, Debe; my Aunt Debe as she was known to me was also a vital part of my upbringing, another woman of great strength, love and support. Aunt Debe (also my official God Mother) and my mom met in Kindergarten and shared a lifetime of raising children, supporting each other through relationships, life's challenges, celebrating life and having grandchildren. A friendship that is more like family is what they shared. My mom and her best friend were a great example of unconditional love. Growing up with my mom and her best friend, really laid a very beautiful example of friendship, strength and quite frankly, grit at its core. These ladies knew how to love, play and care for one another. My Aunt Debe passed very unexpectedly and it devastated everyone that knew and loved her. The year she passed was the same year that I got divorced and she checked in on me often; I can still hear her, "hey kel bel, how are you doing honey?". She was the Aunt that had tough conversations with me, and spear headed those times I wanted to do or get something that she thought was fine, but my mom was being silly for saying no; Like the time she took me to get my hair all cut into layers; we both had to prepare ourselves for my mom's response; my mom was not happy about that. We cried comfortably to sad movies and she put on talent shows and encouraged me to get out of my shy shell. I miss her dearly. I know how proud she is of my mom and our relationship and believe she is always with us.
And speaking of my mom; I am visiting her now as I finish these thoughts. I don't know if it's just because I have aged or because of all the work I have done over the years on myself and around my relationships (I am sure it's both), but I am deeply grateful and have a better understanding of my mom. My mom is a powerfully prideful woman; a strong, keep going, don't give up, keep your chin up, everything is fine type of woman. If you know me, you know I am deeply sensitive and show it; so growing up with my mom, we were somewhat oil and water I think. My deeper understanding; and if I am wrong my mom will correct me after she reads this, is that we were what the other needed. I needed her strength, she needed my softness; and honestly we both have these qualities, my strength is underneath my softness and my mom's softness is underneath her strength; we are each other!!
Growing up, I watched my mom push through very difficult life experiences, I had a front row seat to her badassery if you will, I saw her cape more than anyone and I wanted so badly to be her sidekick. I often tried to have her back, be her lil' super hero assistant (like Robin to Batman, ha ha!); she was a young mom, I was an old women stuck in a child's body; wanting to mother her and take care of her if she'd let me. My mom would often say, "It's my turn to be the parent Kellie". Parent/child relationships can be complicated or maybe it just takes until we, the child gets older to really understand through their own experiences that this human journey is complex, it has many parts, and only ONE part is being a parent.
None of us get this parenting thing 100%, and when we see our parents as humans with their own set of experiences; it is my experience that love, grace, understanding and even forgiveness floats right up to the surface. I am so very grateful to my mom; not for just the relationship we have now, but also for the love and strength she showed me growing up. So on this mother's day, I dedicate this to all 3 of these women who raised me; but I honor my mom today and while she is a very private person, I hope she can see that me sharing and expressing myself is my way of showing her and shouting from the virtual mountain tops; THANK YOU MOM! I LOVE YOU!!
If you do not have your mom still with you physically or if you are estranged from your mom; please accept a loving virtual hug from me and may you feel love and peace and guided in whatever YOU NEED to navigate that grief.
Happy Mother's Day Moms
Pictured: This is located in my office and serves as a reminder of the strong women I come from. It's no wonder why my relationships with women are so important and so prevalent in my life. From L to R: My Aunt Debe in small silver frames, My mom and I laughing and lastly my Gram and I hugging when I was age 16.