Exactly three years ago today, my mom passed on. She is never far away and continues to live in our memories, in our stories and traditions. The next two generations, her children and grandchildren, carry her legacy as consciously as we can. Some of her pieces of clothing or jewellery remind us of her all the time.
One of those jewellery pieces I inherited was her beautiful pearl necklace. The string of that pearl necklace ripped last year. For her 85th birthday a couple of weeks ago, I decided to have it restrung.
It so happens that I have also had a pearl necklace from my grandmother on my father’s side lying in my jewellery box since 2005. All my grandmother ever wore was pearls. She passed on at the age of 96, ten years ago. I decided to have her necklace combined into one with my mother’s.
My grandmother and my mother didn’t have a lot of love for each other at all. My mom’s own mother died when she was still young and, when she got married, she had hoped to find a loving and supportive mother-substitute in her mother-in-law. However, life played out differently, as these two very different women created a relationship of mutual animosity.
My grandmother was a strong, tough and smart woman, who survived the horrors of two world-wars and raised three children during that time. My grandmother always wore dresses, never had idle hands, even when she sat down on the sofa she was productive with some needlework. Outwardly, she was always in control of her emotions, polite and rational. There were clear rules regarding how to behave, and she judged others harshly for not following the rules of proper conduct. Loving kindness was not one of her strengths. Surviving in a patriarchal and fear-based society was. She had learned that the energy of manipulation would give her the power she wasn’t able to openly claim as a woman.
My mother was physically, emotionally and mentally quite the opposite of my grandmother. She was vibrant, energetic and outspoken. She was thin like Twiggy and athletic. She had no interest in being a good housewife, but loved languages, sports, dance and social activities. Just like my grandmother, she wasn’t given any higher education but she had a strong will, decided to learn Spanish and move to Spain in the fifties. She built a life of her own and supported herself. After seven years in Spain, she embarked on her next adventure of moving to Liberia, Africa, where she met my father. She lived loud; she laughed and swore from the bottom of her heart, yet was quite sensitive underneath.
Despite their accomplishments, both my grandmother and my mother were conditioned to believe that men were more important, were superior and deserved to have privileges. Men were put on a pedestal during my grandmother’s generation, yet she had little respect for her own sons. But there was a clear hierarchy in her head and the daughter-in-law was in that hierarchy below the son. So instead of having won somebody who was on her side to support her and lovingly guide her, my mother found a person who used every opportunity to put her down and to mirror her own feelings of unworthiness as a woman to her.
My grandmother used the energy she had learned was her only option: manipulation and gossip. She hurt my mother’s feelings immensely by saying mean things about her to us when my sister and I were children. What she didn’t bargain with was that being unloving and critical like that can easily backfire. Children are smart and will eventually look through the energy of unkindness and manipulation.
From what I gathered over the years of their long, painful disputes was that my mother often felt unloved, misunderstood and disrespected, and my grandmother felt just as disrespected, offended and rejected. They were the greatest teachers for each other. I am not sure how many of their life lessons they actually learned and if they ever forgave and made peace with each other in their hearts before it was time for them to go.
Yet one thing I am certain of is that wherever they are now, they do not care anymore about silly little human insecurities, sensitivities and hurts. From their higher perspective, it must be so obvious for them now how they choose to teach each other greater kindness and self-love while they were living this life.
I trust that they would not object to being reunited in one necklace in which each pearl represents each tear of anger, sadness, fear and joy which they cried as they learned their lessons as women and grew as souls. And I can do my part to reunite them in one string to acknowledge that in the grant scheme of things we are not all that different as women and even as humans. We are all the same, we are all one energy.
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