Remixing and Reimagining My Mom

For the past five years, Mother’s Day has been a difficult holiday for me to celebrate. 

Mom and Me

If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you that I’m a little more tense but do my best to keep up a smile. I call other people’s mothers and wish them Happy Mother’s Day, but overall, the day feels a little hollow. And it’s not because my mother is dead. She’s very much alive but wishes to keep her
distance from me and my sister, which might be for the best, considering our dysfunctional past.

When I cried to my therapist about the past and how painful it was, she suggested that I think hard to remember good times with Mary. In my frustration, I often forget, rather easily, the moments when my mother and I were peaceful and even friendly. There were days when she wasn’t manic or depressed or filled with rage. There were rays of light that made spending time with her… nice.

This idea of remixing the past is nothing new. We experience the remixed everyday in the form of mass media. History is also often “remixed” in our public consciousness. Similar events will occur with different people in slightly different circumstances, but most wars, revolutions, and movements start and end in very similar ways.

I plan on teaching Composition to college freshmen this fall, and my classes will revolve around this remixing and reimaging theme. I feel like it gives students the power to take these same occurring events and medias in new and different ways. Instead of consuming the constant stream of old ideas, I want them to remix the things they experiences, become invested in their production of these things and have a hand in creation.

So, for the sake of my own well being, this Mother’s Day and the many more that are to come, I want to take my therapist’s advice into consideration. No, I will never forget the pain I felt living with my mother, but I can control how I feel about that constant stream of old ideas and experiences. I could remix my mother today and make her more human. I could reimagine her as a more three dimensional person who has nuanced characteristics. I could remember that she is a woman who also struggles with this day. Her own mother is not a loving woman. Her mother is also alive and Mary lives with the knowledge that she’ll never get what she so desperately needs from my grandmother. Acceptance.

Remixed Mary was a woman who had children without tools. She cobbled together family structures like one would build a birdhouse without decent glue. Some days she would do her best. Other days the frustration and rage exasperated her into giving up.

But on those good days she tried:

She drove my sister and me to a McDonald’s for eggnog shakes on Christmas Eve. While we sucked down shakes, Mary drove slowly through rich neighborhoods and we admired their spectacular lights. That was a tradition we took with us no matter how many states we moved to. 

When I was eight, she woke up early, on Valentine’s Day, to help me put together a Valentine’s box for all of my cards and candy. Mary tore up the house looking for some pink for red paper to glue on to a shoe box before my school bus came. 

Mary threatened to sue the pants off of my karate instructor when a fellow student accidentally kicked me in the face. I was fine, of course, but when she saw it happen through the “parent’s window” she lost her shit. I had to convince her that keeping me at the school was for the best.

The weekends depressed her because her soaps weren’t on, so we usually sat in her bedroom on Saturday mornings watching Lifetime Movies. We often talk about how we should be writing the predictable plots: Cheating husbands, obsessive girlfriends, anorexic teens and Lorenzo Lamas. 

In order to move on and not be consumed by the old Mary, it helps to remember her in better ways. A Remixed Mary is easier to pray for. She’s slightly easier to understand. For those of you who have difficult relationships with your parents (because Father’s Day is also coming up), remember that it’s okay to let go of some of the heaviness from your past.

I’m not telling you that you have to forget what happened, by all means, remember. A clear memory of the past can aid in your ability to remix and reimagine. Instead of forgetting, remember that it’s very easy to vilify a parent because we expect so much more from them. They’re not like other humans because of their immense responsibilities to nurture and protect. Sometimes little forgiveness can go long ways, if only to help yourself carry on.

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