Keskiviikko 19.6.2019
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Mother-daughter weekend

in English 5.3.2019 06:48 | Päivämies-verkkolehti
What do we do for a weekend with the girls? We talk and laugh and talk some more. We enjoy delicious meals and some special treats. And we talk again. We walk and drive around, looking at all the lovely houses. We shop for a winter coat for the mother and fairy lights for a sister. We talk about what each of us has been doing and how the fall time has gone. What things we have screwed up, and what things we could celebrate and high-five.
It is not easy to find a free weekend when one is studying, one is working, and the other two have filled their calendars with a number of family and other appointments.

But my daughters and I were able to arrange such a free weekend at the beginning of December. We spent a full day driving right across Finland to see one of the sisters. Although we started early in the morning, we had to drive in the dark for many hours. I grasped the wheel firmly and squinted to see better the lane ahead of me, adjusted the wipers and the high beams. I listened to the driving instructions given by the daughter sitting next to me. I was astonished at my achievement. The girls said many times that they could take on driving, but I drove all the way to our destination – and neatly parked the car.

The next morning my younger daughter took the wheel. I slipped into the back seat and found myself sighing, maybe with relief, certainly not for nervousness. It was easy for me to leave the front seats to my daughters. It occurred to me that I would not need to worry about everything any more. The new generations know how to do things and will manage. I just need to trust in them.

As I said, the weekend with the girls is mostly about talking. The girls talk, the mother listens. The mother speaks, the girls listen. All take turns to join the discussion. There are silent moments, too, little whiles with no words. We try to find suitable words to reach each other. We realize we are all different, and it is not always easy to understand the way someone else is different – though it is easy to understand the way I am different myself. One is keen on beautiful clothes and objects, someone else enjoys the freedom of not having to buy anything. One is concerned about words, another about shapes and colors. Yet there is an underlying inherited attitude toward life that we share, and we have each personally chosen to believe and trust that all things in life ultimately have a purpose.

Is this what it means to say that adult children can be at the same level with their parents, like friends? I find that the girls even take care of their mother. “Mom, where did you go?” one of my daughters says on the phone. (I just went behind the church to take pictures of some monuments.) “Mom, I will ask them to put aside that coat for you”, says another while I am hesitating. “Watch out for that car!” someone calls when I change lanes a bit recklessly in the dark. There is laughter, affection, care. With these grown-up children, I realize I am no longer young, though I may feel myself so.

On our way home I remember a trip I made with my own mother and sisters. We visited our mother’s home area in her beloved Karelia at a time when wood anemones were blooming. I was astonished at how meager everything looked. My mother’s stories had made me imagine a wonderland of green slopes and lush woodland. What I saw was rocky ground and stunted pines. The rolling hills were certainly different from our Ostrobothnian coastal plain. We saw our mother’s home, a small greenish house with vertical cladding by the village road. The apple trees on the tiny yard were not yet in bloom. We then drove to the village church.

In the churchyard we saw a large tombstone of red granite with tens of names, birth dates and death dates. Mother left a bunch of flowers next to a familiar name. We also went to another cemetery, where we found a small moss-covered stone slab that marked the grave of my mother’s great-grandmother. My sisters cleaned the stone on the grave of our ancestral mother, a strong and tenacious woman who suffered a lot in life. We picked some flowers from the nearby forest and left them on her grave. 

I no longer remember what we spoke during that trip to Karelia, but I clearly remember the atmosphere. I felt that it was important for my mother to show us her childhood home, to tell us stories, and to share this experience with us, her daughters.

My daughters and I walked streets that were unknown to me. But they were a new home to one of them. It was important to me that we could together escort her like this and help her settle in her new home town.

Text: Mirja Heikkilä
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen

You will find the original Finnish blog post here.

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