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For the naturally laid back and easygoing, motherhood is the great motivator. There are precious little procrastination opportunities when one is confronted with sleep deprivation and crying children. You might think that a plateful of crackers and cheese while sat at the computer reading blogs is both stimulating AND nutritious, but your toddler disagrees. While 4am seems as the ideal time in which everyone should be keeping their own company and quiet counsel, your baby has other ideas - the same ideas he had at 2am, and 3am.

Motherhood didn't start out for me as an exercise in joy and fulfillment, so much as the constant getting up to do what needed to be done, no matter how much you didn't want to.
And although I felt like they would be the death of me at the time, my own adversities were small fish compared to my mother's, for instance.

Want to bake a nightmare? Here is your list of ingredients:

TAKE 1 Previously magnificently-healthy seeming husband, suddenly dead at the age of 43 and MIX with 1 shell-shocked, bereaved child, 1 mother-in-law on the edge of breakdown and 1 wildly grieving dog.

SEASON the mixture with attempts to get your bearings in a world turned so upside-down that a) people your husband considered his closest friends take this opportunity to rob you, b) come to terms with the fact that your only sources of income from deceased spouse are 2000 verbally-agreed Deutsche Marks he had invested in a boat with his friend, who appears to contract selective amnesia about the whole thing (see a); a life insurance policy which in the climate of sudden economic inflation becomes so de-valued that once you have paid all the administrative taxes on it, pays out just enough money to buy 2 Kinder eggs; a company pension which in the climate of the same economic instability comes out to 3 Deutsch Marks per month (roughly equivalanet to about £4).

For extra flavour SPRINKLE through with phonecalls from your husband's ex-wife who calls to scream at you about her share of the husband's estate and when informed by you that ("I hate to tell you this, but my daughter has already inherited all he had to give." "And what would that be?" "Intelligence and a sense of humour.") retaliates by making up terrible-sounding genetic diseases from which your only child is going to die.

Set the dish into a PRE-WARMED oven of a country slowly marching towards civil war and total economic meltdown, and attempt to support your family through a job in Italy in a climate of increasing border instability and political and emotional tumult.

The heart would weep, except that the heart could not afford to do so. My mother supported us best she could. She travelled through Croatia on the eve of war, when it was not safe to do so. Acted completely cool and collected when she was anything but, so as not to arouse the suspicions of the border guards.

She stored away most of her own deep shock and grief, and poured all the maddening thoughts and insomnia which accompany Loss into an ambitious project - a Serbian-English-French Dictionary of legal terms.

I don't know how my mum managed to stay so calm in what was not a shitstorm so much as a Category IV hurricane of disaster. Perhaps because it was what she had to do - after all, without her an eight-year old girl and an 82 year old woman had very little hope of surviving. Perhaps she could see history repeating itself and remembered how her own mother had broken at the sudden death of her husband on my mother's 12th birthday, and was determined to do things differently.

At the time I was too caught up in my own sorrow to notice very much what the adults around me were doing, but I think writing that dictionary helped keep my mother sane - just as forays into the imagination were all that preserved me. I remember her, day after day bent over a desk in the days before computers writing out words on little index cards. Putting them together. Taking what she knew and making something that hadn't been done before. The index cards became a dictionary, now in its fifth edition.

Though I have been vocal about my frustrations, I don't think I talk about how much I love my mother, or how proud I am of her nearly enough. But I am. For the record, I really, really am.

People, parents, have been doing the same the world over in big and little ways. Following their dreams, looking out for the best interests of their children, re-shaping small pieces of the Known and the Possible. And whether they end up founding greatly successful companies and businesses or following a dream and having only a handful of people know their passion and their name, it's the doing that's important. Sometimes this means just staying still and breating, waiting for the wave to break and sometimes it means grabbing what is considered Advisable and Prudent and Possible by the jugular and showing it what's what.

This post was inspired by Blog Nosh magazine, for the Heart and Art of Motherhood carnival .

Got your own story? By all means, share it. I'd love to hear it, and not just because I am getting tired by all the election-talk.


May. 10th, 2010 12:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you. It felt like the stuff she did needed remembering.


deep sky, firefly

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