I was flipping through the birthday calendar which my girls made for me last year for Mother’s day and which is filled with quotes about mothers, when my eye got caught on a particular quote:
“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.”
I have been reading a fascinating book by Bryan Sykes called “The Seven Daughters of Eve”. In his book, Sykes, who is a leading DNA scientist, gives a report of his research into a specific gene, which passes undiluted from generation to generation through the maternal line. After examining thousands of DNA sequences from all over the world, Sykes found that almost everyone of native European descent, wherever they may live throughout the world, can trace their ancestry back to one of seven women, seven “clan mother’s” who he calls the Seven Daughters of Eve.
His book is written almost like a mystery novel, but what really intrigued me was this idea itself: As Caucasians, we can all trace our history back to the woman who was our ancestor and lived 10,000 to 45,000 years ago.
Usually, we barely think back two or three generations. What is your mother’s story? And what is the story of your mother’s mother? Do you know it?
My mother’s story is one of courage and new beginnings. She grew up during World War II, which pretty much robbed her of any care-free childhood. When she was 21, her mother died and soon after, she packed her suitcase to move to Spain. She learned Spanish and made Barcelona her new home. As a woman in the fifties, coming from a working class background, she never had the privilege of a higher education, yet she made her way in life, working in a bank and later on as a secretary. If she wanted something, she set her mind to it and made it happen. When she was in her early thirties, she set out for yet another adventure, accepting a job in Liberia, Africa where she met my father. Getting married and having children was another new start. And ten years later, she moved to Africa again with her husband and her daughters, this time Nigeria.
My mother’s story is also one of a lot of suppressed pain, grief and other painful emotions. She lost her own mother when she was young and never processed that loss. I hardly know anything about my grandmother’s story because my mother couldn’t speak about her without breaking down in tears. So I stopped asking. Due to all the unprocessed experiences, my mom struggled with addictions, with anorexia and alcohol. She had a hard time with getting older and with life slowing down. She didn’t do “calm” very well. Staying still and being present was “torture” for her. It must have scared her a lot to stop. She loved activity, like talking, laughing, dancing, exercising, playing sports and travelling. The ancestral healing process which Dhebi DeWitz describes in her book “The Messenger Within” is one way of bringing healing to previous generations.
My story begins when my mother was 37 years old. Back in the sixties, that was old to be a first time mother. She stayed active though, and always looked younger than she was. She was at times a bit overprotective, but she was present, taking on the unfamiliar role of the homemaker, and made the best out of what she felt was expected of her. She encouraged education and understood the longing to discover other horizons. When I moved to Malaysia in my late twenties, and to Canada in my early thirties, she was sad, but at the same time, completely supportive. She understood all about new beginnings.
For me, one way to honour my mom’s story is to encourage my own girls to embrace life to the fullest, to travel, to seize opportunities that come along, to be a master of their own destiny. That for me is a huge part of their grandmother’s legacy. I also believe another part of her legacy is for me and them to learn from her errors. My mom never had the opportunity to process her grief or learn how to address her emotions in a healthy way, to heal her pain. She searched for relief in distractions. Her granddaughters, on the other hand, have all the tools to live life more consciously and I am very grateful to say that they do.
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