To the Mothers Who Came Before: Aimee Niebuhr on Let's Talk Modern Mothering
It's Modern Mothering Monday! Throughout the month of October, we'll be talking about what it's like to parent today here on the Made of Stories blog. Some fantastic writers have teamed up with me and I'm thrilled to be featuring their voices over the next weeks. My personal goal for this series to encourage other moms. We all faces challenges unique to us and unique to our generation, but at the end of the day, we’re all mothers doing our best. This series is all about cutting through the endless “Mommy Wars” and generational bashing to encourage other moms, validate our experiences, and remind each other that we’re all in this together.
Today I'm tickled to be sharing the words of an incredible writer, encourager, and truth-teller, Aimee Niebuhr. This lady's words have spoken to me countless times and I'm at once covetous of and inspired by her bravery and honesty. She's a voice that brightens the social media spaces I've joined, so give her a follow and get in on the encouragement.
Aimee is a freelance writer and homeschooling, stay-at-home mom living in Austin, Texas. Her days are filled with the sweet chaos of raising three children, nurturing their love for learning and literature, and finding stolen moments to chase after her dreams. When the hustle gets hectic, (and let's get real, it's always hectic!) she turns to strong coffee, good chocolate, and humor to make it through. You can find her inspiring women to stay centered in seeking their joy at www.mamacentric.com and join in the journey to self-love on her Instagram and Facebook pages.
Recently, I came across a misplaced flash drive filled with photos of memories I had filed away somewhere in the collective conscious of my heart. My firstborn son’s first taste of homemade whipped cream, right from the beater, on his very first Thanksgiving. The cold January morning when I set out watercolors and watched him paint in his high chair for an hour uninterrupted. A self-portrait in black and white, the rings around my eyes accentuated by the contrast, taken one week in to my new journey with mothering two.
On their own, each vignette appears inconsequential; yet, when woven together, they begin to tell the story of my life.
There are a series of photos taken in my grandmother’s home; the home in which she no longer lives. “Remember how he used to lean in to smell each flower in every pot on her patio?” reminisced my husband. Zinnias and Mexican Heathers and Marigolds, his tiny, toddler nose scrunched in studious observation; I had almost forgotten.
I wondered if the young family who purchased her home continued to take such pride in the garden, standing outside in the morning light watering and weeding, as my grandmother had done, without fail. One day, when their children are grown, will they take their grandsons by the hand to feed the blackbirds crusts of stale bread beneath the sprawling pecan tree?
I know a home isn’t where our memories reside, but the longer I live the more I discover little pieces of my heart scattered amongst places I will never be able to return to.
Two summers ago we stood in her kitchen for the last time, a baby on my hip and a little boy at my feet. Together, my grandmother and I packed her belongings for sale and for donation. I gently wrapped in paper the things I needed to claim for my own. China and teacups and the little pumpkins she would set out every year come fall. She lives with my aunt now, only two blocks away from the home that meant everything to me for so many years.
Each time that we speak, worry whispers from within, as I wonder how many more conversations we will be able to share. She has been the voice of reason in my life for thirty years, and though the voice that answers now sometimes shakes and trembles, to me, there is no sound in the world steadier with certainty. I tuck all of her letters into a special box. I’ve saved all of her voicemails from the past year, because deleting them seems too ominous. She is the only one who leaves voicemails anymore, anyhow. The rest of the world rushes in and out in the form of texts and likes, and emailed messages.
Communication buzzes wildly at every moment, and yet, there is no tangible proof of its existence to hold on to.
We are one crash of hard drive or one global data meltdown away from losing it all, forever. Although, I suppose the room of photo albums in my great-aunt’s home could just as easily be lost to flame, tornado, or flood. That tiny room lined floor to ceiling with signs of lives well lived might be one of my most favorite places. Each summer I would find myself in the room of photo albums, thinking of all the lives that came before mine. I thought of the great-grandmother I never met, who gave birth to my grandmother, and five other children, right in the front bedroom. Was motherhood to her then as motherhood is to me now? As unpredictable as a summer’s thunderstorm that comes swiftly crashing in with clouds so grey and heavy you forget the sun is still shining brightly in the sky? As magical as the fireflies that dance late into the evening, bringing just enough light to the darkness to convince even those most frightened that all will be alright?
I need to know that the mothers who came before me once felt the lift and rush of motherhood’s mercurial emotions, too.
I need to imagine that, nearly a hundred years ago, my great-grandmother awoke to the same sunrise that breaks before me now, and stood in the quiet of her kitchen with a silent prayer and a hopeful heart that she would somehow make it through.
When the world around me feels too broken and I am fearful for the future my children will make their lives in, I need to imagine my grandmother, babies bouncing in her lap, as she watched the evening news. Perhaps she hid the tears as she learned of heroes falling – JFK and MLK, Jr. – or maybe she wept openly and held my infant mother a bit more tightly to her chest. And on the evenings when my mind lies restless, unable to put the day away, I envision my own mother and believe that many nights she must have felt this way, too.
At times, it seems surreal to me that I am now the mother to three children of my own, when my spirit still feels much like that of the girl drifting to sleep in her grandmother’s home. Though I am thirty, and she eighty, I still call upon her when I feel lost and without the answers. I will for as long as I am able.
And when the day comes when I am the one who has woven together all of the vignettes of a life well lived, perhaps I will be the one called upon to set the world right again. I will discover that the pieces of my heart that I scattered like seeds in the wind will have grown to span across a lifetime, to carry on with gentle nurturing, long after I have lived.