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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My mother was obsessed with scrapbooking before it was a fad. She would spend hours making cut-outs and finding cute stickers. Used wrapping paper and greeting cards became paper art within the scrapbooks. Childhood anecdotes and important moments were recorded on the pages in my mother's perfect penmanship. And when it became known that much of the paper products and glues she had used were filled with acids and other nasties that would destroy photographs, she began each book again.

Mine is different from my siblings. There are fewer pictures. Many of the initial anecdotes describe how I, as an 18-month-old and toddler, was very interested in cameras and the end result of my interest was that I opened the camera repeatedly and exposed the film, destroying all the pictures. I remember reading those stories when I was older and asking my mother, "Why didn't you just put the camera where I couldn't reach it?" She would reply, "Sam, there wasn't a place where you couldn't climb. If you wanted something, you found it."

Hmmm....I sound a bit like my Adam.

Tabitha has recently become obsessed with my scrapbook. She looks for a long time at each surviving picture, reads the stories, looks at the Valentines and birthday cards, and traces each saved, childish drawing with her finger. When I asked her why my scrapbook is of such interest to her, she asked, "Mom, how could anyone not love you? I don't understand."

I think my mom loved me. She just didn't really want me, preferring instead, my blond, blue-eyed sisters. You can love someone without wanting them, I think.

I explained to Tabitha about bonding. I told her how my mother suffered debilitating postpartum depression in a time when it was taboo to speak of it. I talked about the miscarriage which occurred when I was less than a year old, in a time when the remedy for miscarriage was to get pregnant again as soon as possible.

Tabitha said, "I still don't understand. You were beautiful. I would have loved you--bonded with you."

And that's true. Tabitha bonds with every baby she meets. She's been a tiny mother since Adam provided her first Batman action figure when she was nine months old. She rocked and fed her Batman and even gave him a tiny black diaper--just in case. The mothering moved to nearly every possible toy she could find--stuffed animals, baby dolls, even a very large Frankenstein monster which she stole from her brothers (this was a two-fer, because the toy had a hollow head intended to store plastic tools--Tabitha ousted the tools and stored snacks in the head instead).

There's no question--Tabitha would have loved the baby Samantha with all her heart. I know this. It's just a part of who she is. It's not, however, a part of who my mother is. The part that mystifies Tabitha is why my mother bonded with most of her children, but not me.

I tried once again to explain, then gave up. Tabitha cannot understand. I told her that was okay--it's sort of incomprehensible. She said, "And now you won't ever have a mom who loves you like she should because Grandma's brain is dying."

This is true.

So I said, "You know, Tabitha, there were a lot of things that happened that shouldn't have. But there were also things that happened that were good--things that many children don't receive." And I listed them for her:
1. My mother read to me. This is a gift for which I will be grateful every day of my life. There are children whose parents don't read at all. They (both parents and children) miss out on a great deal.
2. My mother taught me basic life and homemaking skills. Tabitha perceives me as being extremely capable when it comes to keeping a home and taking care of a family. Those skills came from my mother.
3. My mother taught me appreciation for art, music, literature, and dance.
4. My mother loved beauty, and she, herself, has always been beautiful.

Tabitha said, "You love your mom."
I said, "Yes. I do."
Tabitha said, "Grandma is very lucky to have a daughter like you."
I said, "You know, Tabitha, I've never really thought about that."
Tabitha said, "I think you need to think about it."

Perhaps my daughter is right.

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