In April, I turned 30 years old. It was an odd feeling.
When my mother was thirty in 1985, she gave birth to me. I have pictures of her from that time. In them, she looks soft, warm, and happy. Her hair falls in soft brown waves around her face.
In 2010, at age 55, she looked completely different. Gone were the soft cheeks and in their place were hard lines. The soft, wavy hair, burned out from too many dye jobs, now fell in stringy black locks with a thick row of white running along the roots. Lines that were just beginning to show at age 30 now dug deep grooves into her face. The smile was gone. In its place was a permanent scowl. She died angry and depressed, welcoming her end, even though lung cancer could only make it excruciating.
Until a few days ago, the thought of my age only brought with it vague parallels to my mother. After all, I’m not pregnant and likely never will be. I also don’t smoke (part of why she was so wrinkled) or dye my hair save for rare occasions. Aside from age, there were few similarities.
On Sunday, as I brushed out my hair in front of a mirror, a glimmer of white caught my attention. I leaned forward and discovered white hairs invading the loamy brown that is my natural color. I’d seen one or two of these interlopers over the past couple of years but I ignored them. Now, there were too many to count, much less pull. Every time I thought I found them all, I would pull aside another lock and find more.
My mother must have started going grey at thirty, I thought, remembering how she always dyed it. And then what was a vague feeling turned into full-on apprehension.
I don’t want to be anything like my mother. She could have been a matriarch, a woman made strong by her trials and resplendent in wisdom gained from a full life. Instead, she chose to be bitter.
My father was her soulmate and when he died, she lost all reason for living. My brother and I were not reason enough for her. Her grandchildren were not reason enough. God was cruel and life too difficult to bother with. She couldn’t make herself actively commit suicide, so she did it passively by simply not caring and losing interest. When over four decades of cigarettes finally caught up with her, she welcomed it.
She died in February and I married in June. Someone else had to put the veil on my head. Someone else made sure I had the requisite “something old, something blue, something borrowed, something new”.
My husband is my soulmate. Instead of cigarettes, my weakness is food. Even though I’m 30, I’ve been through more than others of my age. I’ve certainly seen more death than the average American.
I don’t want to be like my mother. But as I looked at the grey hairs, I felt an unsettling kinship.
I’m not sure why I’ve written this blog entry. I just felt the need to write it. If you have anything to say about mother/daughter relationships or your own reflections on growing older, I would love to read them.