I don’t have a ton of memories from my childhood. My brain is inexplicably wired to remember every phone number, song lyrics, and useless piece of information I come across, but when tasked with retrieving actual life events, tends to give me the middle finger. I have the occasional glimmer of a homemade Halloween costume, a vague recollection of a vacation or two, but generally, my memory is kind of a no-man’s-land, complete with Wild-West style tumbleweeds rolling by. One thing I do remember, however, is the distinct feeling of comfort and safety. I attribute that to my Mother, because now looking back at my childhood, I realize that safety and comfort were far from a given. They were an illusion she crafted with her bare hands.
My parents and I made the trek over from Lithuania, back when it was part of the U.S.S.R., amid vast throngs of Eastern Europeans escaping a life that is entirely foreign to most people who were born here in the States. Hell, it’s even foreign to me. I was 4 when we came here and as I explained above, remember exactly nothing. But I know the facts, even if they aren’t exactly first hand. We came to this magical land of promise, dreams, and unicorns, and the first glimpse my mother got of her new home was driving through the outer boroughs of New York. But back in the late 80s, when nothing was clean or shiny, and graffiti, hookers, and garbage decorated the streets. It takes every ounce of imagination I have to truly understand how far her heart must have sank and how strangled she must have felt by fear. We settled into a new existence, living in Brooklyn, my mother doing nails at a local salon and my father driving a taxi in a city entirely foreign to him. And then, as life can sometimes do, we got punched in the gut. Cancer. It didn’t take long and a year later my mother buried my father. And now here she was, younger than I am now, in a country she barely knew and understood even less, not speaking the language, with no support system, a poorly paying job, and a 6 year old to take care of (who had a birthday coming up in two weeks no less).
It strains my soul to even imagine how a person begins to deal with that. It always did. Even as a teen, I remember thinking she was Wonder Woman (even if outwardly I may have called her slightly less complimentary things at the time… damn teenagers.) But as a kid, I knew none of this. I felt none of this. She was just my Mom and she knew everything and could handle anything. Because she was a grown up! That’s how kids see us, ya know? It’s how they see all adults. That at some point in life, some mythical switch gets flipped and we finally get a damn instruction manual to this whole “life” business. Adults know all the things don’t they?
Well now I’m an adult. And a mom. And I see my kids looking at me the way I did at my mom; feeling an unshakable sense of safety in my presence. They don’t need to worry about anything because duh, mom knows all the things.
But here’s the kicker… I know none of the things! I’m not sure when, but somewhere along the way, I finally accepted that my manual wasn’t coming, that adults don’t know shit, and that I was gonna have to just fake it through until I could break the news to the kids one day: Mom was just trudging along trying to make it through each day with you still possessing all your limbs and her still maintaining that last shred of sanity. Their belief in the magic of “Mom” helps though; they keep me going as much as I keep them alive. It’s my job to keep that myth alive for them as long as possible; even if it is as exhausting as coming up with new places to stage that damn Elf on the Shelf.
My name is Sandra Prisco. I am an attorney-turned-stay-at-home-mom who lives in New Jersey with my husband and two (soon to be three) kids. I love writing, watching questionable television, and drinking as much coffee as a person can humanly consume. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and on her blog.