Last Sunday was Daughters Day, and it got me thinking about my relationship with my mom. It made me think of one moment in particular, when I fully understood the special kind of love a mother has for her daughter.
My mom used to tell me about how she always dreamed of being a mother, but also of having a little girl. She said she loved dressing me up and braiding my hair . . . that she especially loved decorating my childhood bedroom. I had a white canopy bed, a collection of porcelain dolls and a Victorian style dollhouse. I had a wicker chair and a shelf with all the classic children’s books. My room was always a talking point when people would visit, and I was often told how lucky I was to have such a beautiful space of my very own.
After I moved out for university, my grandma moved into my parents house, so I told my mom to use my room for her. I was a young adult, after all, and I didn’t think I needed my childhood bedroom anymore. When I would visit, I would stay in the guest room. I would stay on weekends when my apartment was close by, and for months at a time when I was living in Colombia and visiting for the summer.
Then my grandma passed away. It was difficult on everyone, but especially on my mom, who would often burst into tears at any reminder of her. She became much more sentimental, expressing her love even more openly than before. One day, while my mom and I were speaking on the phone, she told me how important it was to her that I start staying in my old room again. “I’m so grateful to you for giving it up for a while,” she said, “but I want you to know that it will always be your room.”
When I arrived back in Canada from Colombia that summer, it was 11 o’clock at night. I peeked my head into my mom’s room to greet her like I always did. She gave me one of her teary, bone-crushing hugs, and told me she’d been praying for me all day. “You must be exhausted,” she said. “Your room is all ready for you. Get some rest and we’ll have coffee together tomorrow morning.”
I couldn’t wait to get my pyjamas on and crawl into bed. When I opened my door, my suitcase was already there because my dad had brought it up. There were fresh towels, my bed was turned down, and the bedside lamp was on. I smiled to myself, picturing my mom spending the day cleaning. But that wasn’t all. She’d also done some redecorating. All my treasures from childhood were on display: my favorite books, old letters I’d received from friends, every award I’d ever won, scrapbooks with every piece of art I’d ever done, stories I’d written, and pictures from childhood and adolescence. There were all my favorite dolls and stuffed animals, all my yearbooks and report cards, the first essay I got an A on in university.
I felt all this emotion start to well up, and ran back to my mom’s room. “Mom, thank you . . . thank you so much. It’s so beautiful . . . what you did in my room,” I whispered into the dark, hoping she’d still be awake.
“You like it?” she asked, bashfully. “I just wanted you to know that no matter where you are in life, you’ll always have your place . . . your home.”
I still think of this moment often . . . I think of what it meant. My mom always used to say that she wanted to give her daughter all the things she dreamed of when she was a little, and my room is an emblem of her love and her hopes for me. I think of the fact that she kept and treasured every little piece of my journey up until that point — all the pictures, right down to my university papers. I think about how she created a museum of love.
It wasn’t long after that we found out she was sick. She fought for two years, fought through surgeries and chemotherapy, and she spent a lot of time reflecting on her life and her family, going through pictures and memories. And when I arrived home a month before she passed away, I greeted her like always, then went into my room to find a pink box at the end of my bed. Inside were a collection of pictures of my entire life so far — my mom’s pregnancy with me, baby pictures, family vacations and all my milestones from adulthood.
It was late but I ran to thank her, again. “Mom, thank you so much. I love the picture box . . . we have so many beautiful memories.”
“I’m so happy you like it, Dolly,” she said, but this time there was a little sadness in her voice. It was if she knew then that this would be her final gift to me.
Even now that she’s gone, I feel her love every time I walk into my childhood bedroom. I miss her all the time, but I feel so grateful for the life she built for our family, for the memories and keepsakes she put away for me. And now I understand all too well why she would get so misty-eyed every time someone would bring up my grandma . . . her mom: the love of a mother towards her daughter is unlike any other, and it’s irreplaceable.
How is your relationship with your mother or daughter special? If you want to read more about mothers and daughters, check out My Greatest Joy.