Style Living Self Geeky News and Views
In the Paper Hello! Create with us

Generations of mothers

By BARBARA GONZALEZ- VENTURA, The Philippine STAR Published May 09, 2021 5:00 pm

As you grow older, your view on motherhood changes.

When you were in your 20s, how happy you and your mother were when your babies were born; there was a triangle that involved you, your mother for advice, and your sweet little babies. Your mother taught you how to burp them, how to put binders on them so their stomachs would not bulge when they grew up. Your baby was the most adorable creature in the world.

Then they grew up. They stopped being so cuddly. They traded in their wonderful baby scents for the smell of sun and sweat. They began to manifest traits that made you wonder from whom they inherited their attitudes.

Then they hit puberty and your nightmare years began. More quarrels arose between you. Of course, puberty is the stage when children unconsciously begin to separate from parents so they become independent adults with their own personalities.

Sometimes you see yourself or their fathers in them. Other times, you see your grandmother or grandaunt in them. Some grow close to you, others far from you. You, as their mother, wonder why.

My grandmother was traditional. My mother was modern. I stayed at home with my grandmother most of the time, before I hit puberty, so I was the child caught in between.

I had to grow much older to realize that in my family of widows there was a silent war that waged between generations of mothers. I write about it because I have also realized that it did not happen only to our family. Many families have had the same situations. It is a generational problem. Generations grow up differently.

My grandmother grew up when people wore ternos. When she would go to a wedding, she would still wear ternos. My mother, her widowed daughter, and I lived with her. She would starch the renggue (that might have been the way to spell it, that’s the way it sounds) of her terno’s panuelo, the stiff wrap held down with a brooch. Then she would give me a safety pin to press out the starch that stayed in the tiny holes of the fabric, before she folded her panuelo just so. She had implicit trust, in my little girl’s eyes.

My mother, who was 22 years old when she got widowed, used to teach in a convent school. She dressed very well. One day she was called to the principal’s office and told that she must wear a full slip, what was called a chemise, or a camison in Filipino Spanish, under her dress. My mother stopped teaching there. 

My grandmother thought my mother should have just stayed home and taken care of us — her and me — as all good widowed daughters did. But Mommy was young and she was an extrovert. She went out and worked during the day and taught at the University of the East at night. She would get home late every night or much later if she went out with her friends or had dates. My Lola grossly disapproved.

My grandmother was traditional. My mother was modern. I stayed at home with my grandmother most of the time, before I hit puberty, so I was the child caught in between.

I was a sickly child, always had my tonsils inflamed and sometimes that hurt a lot. Once I had high fever and a very painful throat. My mother was out teaching. My Lola stood at the foot of my bed — angry, I could tell.

She said, “Here you lie dying and your mother is nowhere to be found.” Until now I remember her look, her statement. But now I understand it better. It expressed the sudden release of her restrained anger at my mother who didn’t behave the way she wanted her widowed daughter to behave.

Now, also, I realize I loved them both very much. Both were dear mothers to me.

I sigh as I write this, with a heaviness of heart. I know I will have to die before my daughters remember me nicely. Some of that is my fault. But most of it is generational. We are different mothers — grandmother, mother, me, my daughters.

My Lola taught me to cook and sew. She was independent in the traditional way. My mother taught me to be independent her way, to work and support my children. She taught me to build my own life, to not subject myself to what other people said.

Because she was widowed young, she inadvertently taught me to define myself earlier and to know when I could not take any more from my husband. I learned from her example. She married for the second time after I got married and she stayed with him until he died.

My daughters learned from my example. They are extremely independent. They live where they want to. All they ask of me is I don’t write about them. But their lives are only slightly like mine.

I sigh as I write this, with a heaviness of heart. I know I will have to die before my daughters remember me nicely. Some of that is my fault. But most of it is generational. We are different mothers — grandmother, mother, me, my daughters.

My grandmother, my mother, even I am not too comfortable with Mother’s Day. I am certain that my daughters, who belong to a newer generation, love it.