My Mother Before Me

I’m going to take you back with me to the year 1997. It was the Saturday before my first Mother’s Day and my Momma and I were sitting together at a Mother/Daughter workshop held in one of the ballrooms at Embassy Suites.

My Mother Before Me by Julie Kettle Gundlach

My grandma passed away in my mother’s arms when I was 12 years old. The love and respect they had for each other was evident to me even as a pre-teen. Now, as an adult, I was able to recognize that look on her face when she realized some of the motherly advice she was giving me was something quite meaningful to her as it triggered memories from when she was a young, clueless mother… like me.

I had forgotten about this experience because since the age of 10, I was given a little 110 camera and a diary from Momma to record all the happenings of my daily life (which probably explains my habitual over posting of photos on facebook and instagram).  And of course, if she said to do something… it had to be done and done well. That meant perfect grammar, complete sentences and nice handwriting. My journal was kept safe and hidden at home and written on at the end of the day. My camera was in my pocket all day long for moments that would help describe my story later on. Oh! And back then… we used film. It was about $7 to buy and about $20 to process and it took two weeks to get them back so all my allowance was used for this. I’m rambling….

Long story short… after giving birth to an almost 11 pound baby boy, I had some baby weight issues. My vanity kept me from taking photos of us that day. God, I regret that sooooo much! How I wish I could remember what she was wearing that day. Which glasses did she have on? How did she style her hair?  Why can’t I remember this? Because I was too insecure of my own appearance to take a picture of myself with my mother on my first Mother’s Day weekend and HER first Mother’s Day weekend as a GRANDMOTHER!!! How selfish of me to have vanity and insecurity steal this memory away from me.

Lesson: Take pictures and journal as many fabulous moments from now until you can’t any longer… no matter who it makes feel uncomfortable or annoys. These pictures and postings are for ME and MY memory so that I don’t forget my good times.

So what DID I walk away with on that special day with Momma?

We got the book My Mother Before Me – When Daughters Discover Mothers by Julie Kettle Gundlach. I believe it was the author who conducted the workshop that day with us. We were given little exercises to perform… like a series of questions to see how much we knew about our mothers and then a series of interview questions to ask our mothers. I don’t remember the questions but I believe I did much better than the rest of the daughters in the room with us that day. Even better… that day marked a unique metamorphosis of our relationship. We no longer saw each other as the Mother/Child or Superior/Inferior. We now saw each other as Mother/Mother and confidants.

As a teen, I am sure I tested her patience with my feelings of entitlement and complete inconsiderate actions like staying out too late and not telling her where I was or who I was with, announcing to her on a Thursday night that we were supposed to be on a float in a parade in San Antonio that Saturday, or saying “I have NOTHING to wear!!!!” and two hours and one Simplicity pattern later… a new dress is in my closet. She knew… she knew it all suddenly clicked because now I was a mother and would do anything for this child of mine.  Because by her example, I now knew what it took to be a good mother.

What I do remember clearly is from that day on, our conversations changed. I was no longer just her child. She saw me as an equal. I was no longer a bratty teen. I saw her as the instruction book to the baby who was allergic to every single formula except that $80/can kind!!! The purpose of that workshop was to reunite Mothers and Daughters and instigate curiosity. Momma and I already had a good relationship…but this made it better.

Soooooo… here’s the kicker. I never read the book after that workshop. I kept it. It’s been in my library all these years but I never cracked it open. I’ve had a TON of garage sales over the last 18 years but I never got rid of this one book. The last few months, I’ve been re-reading old books of mine that I forgot I had so this one popped out.

As I flipped through the pages, all the letters blurred together and the memory of that day popped up like photographs in my head. I read the back of book…. slumped down on the floor and knew I had to read it. (I’ve posted the picture of the book cover so you can understand why)

Lesson: Life is short. What is given to you is a gift.  It’s human nature to remember the bad stuff and it takes effort to remember the good stuff. Many of us take the good stuff for granted. For that reason, ask your elders and loved ones how they met the loves of their lives, what they wanted to be when they grew up, what their dreams were, who their role models were, what they did when they got tipsy (I loved that question!), how were they courted, what they regretted, what they feared, what was their proudest moment… Take pictures, record them, video them, save their voice mails, ask them to write about their lives to you. And do it yourself, too, for your children and grandchildren.

We all have a story to tell.

Who cares if you take too many pictures of yourself and your family and your friends (and my bike and my shoes) doing silly frivolous stuff or insist on video recording every single t-ball game, swim meet, piano recital, half time show, etc. It is in those moments that you find the little gems of the stuff of life.. your life…. MY LIFE.

This is my life and I will not allow anyone to edit my story any longer. If you don’t like it… don’t read it. If you DO like it.. I welcome you to become part of a chapter of it.  It is in constant edit so that even if it doesn’t have a happy ending, lessons are learned, legends are born and the mystical fable of a cancer cure may jump genres into the nonfiction section.

"During a conversation with her cancer-stricken mother just three month before her death on Mother's Day 1983, Ms. Gundlach realized how little she knew about her mother's personal history....  Sadly, her mother became too ill and died before she could fulfill her plan to discuss her life."

“During a conversation with her cancer-stricken mother just three month before her death on Mother’s Day 1983, Ms. Gundlach realized how little she knew about her mother’s personal history…. Sadly, her mother became too ill and died before she could fulfill her plan to discuss her life.”


One Response to “My Mother Before Me”

  1. CoachSheri Says:

    Great writing Myssie! Thanks for sharing!


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