Mothering Across Time: Musings, Meanderings, Mistakes and Mastery

My mother Helen Redman and my brother Paul Barchilon in 1965
My mother Helen Redman and my brother Paul Barchilon in 1965

Today is my mother’s 75th birthday. Honoring her from afar is not easy to do. I wish I was there with her to celebrate. Luckily my brother and his partner are, along with her beloved husband, my beau père, so I know she’ll be well fêted.

I thought I’d reflect a little bit on our history together as mother and daughter. It’s been a long, complex and wondrous arc through hard stuff and into healing. There is magic in time, it really makes a huge difference, in all parenting narratives.

The early years of parenting are non-stop, no time to pee, breathe, think or sleep. This segues into the busy years of school, extra curricular activities, friend and relationship dramas, and into the teenage years and young adulthood. If you manage to get to the teenage years without too much drama, mazel tov. Most folks hit serious obstacles in the teenage years.

My family has gone through a lot together, and we’ve had long hard swatches of not very good or kind communication with each other, mostly on my part towards my mother. I cringe when I think of the nasty, blaming letters I used to write to her, ten page nasty things. She’s always tried to understand or be supportive, as best she could, even when she was devastated by what I said or was going through. It’s very difficult when your daughter steps off cliffs into territory that is absolutely not gentle, friendly, clear or what you dreamed of for her. As a mother myself, I know that this is one of the hardest parts of parenting.

My single parenthood and pregnancies were very hard on my parents. They navigated it the best they could. I still didn’t feel supported enough by them. This led me to live with a community that was not the safest place for me or my children. There have been lots of really hard months and years, angry letters and strange interactions over the last thirty years of my being a mother.

BUT, here’s the key thing, my mother NEVER stopped reaching out to me, never stopped trying to connect and bridge the distances between our ways of being and thinking. That tenacity and love for family has been a huge offering. It  literally created a bridge over troubled waters; not always a sturdy one, but a place where we could cross over to each other and find our way back to loving and connecting.

The love and constant effort on her part has never wavered. As a daughter who has really gone far out on lots of shaky limbs and hung out near erupting volcanic kinds of situations, that love and effort have made all the difference. I’m so lucky to have such a vibrant, strong and creative woman as my mother.

She’s a feminist, an artist, she’s intelligent, she practices Yoga, Qi Gong, and meditation daily. She helps women navigate the territory of loss around the death of children. She is honest about her feelings, she cares deeply about her family and friends. She makes the effort again and again to get us together and to be real.

I also am happy to share that my mother has a huge retrospective show of her work coming up, full of her perspective and portraits of her/my family. If you are in the San Diego area, I hope you will go to one of these events.

 Catalogue cover: Maternal Echo, oil pastel, 43" x 30", 1964

Catalogue cover: Maternal Echo, oil pastel, 43″ x 30″, 1964

Helen Redman: The Other Side of Birth

San Diego Mesa College Art Gallery
Exhibition: March, 10 — April 14, 2015
Opening reception: Thursday, March 12 from 5-7 pm
Artist’s lecture at 7 pm, immediately following reception in G101
Conversation with the Artist at gallery: Friday, April 10, 1:30 pm
7250 Mesa College Dr., San Diego, CA 92111
Phone: (619) 388-2829
Website: www.sdmesa.edu/art-gallery

Helen Redman: Through a Mother’s Eye

Women’s Museum of California
Exhibition: April 23 — May 31, 2015
Opening Reception and Conversation with the Artist: Thursday, April 23 at 6 pm
2730 Historic Decatur Road, Barracks 16
San Diego, CA 92106
Phone: (619) 233-7963
Website: www.WomensMuseumCa.org

Today I just want to say, I love you Mumu and I’m so lucky to be your daughter! I hope we have lots and lots of time to take walks and enjoy being near each other as the next many years of our lives unfold.

Mother Daughter Love!
Mother Daughter Love!

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