Persephone yawns and stretches from her slumber. The trees respond with kisses of green bud promises. The flower bulbs planted in the autumn reach out to impress her with their dazzling array of colors. Coaxing her to return, beckoning her to shed the grays and browns of her winter clothing and cloak herself in their kaleidoscope prism.
The birds sing in accordance with Demeter’s joy of her daughter returning. The birds, the animals, the people engage in the renewed mating rituals of the season. The winds whisper, “She is coming. Persephone returns.” And the mother responds to the words with rains of happy tears and dabs the scent of rejuvenated earth to entice her daughter closer.
My nature heeds the calling I hear as the Wheel turns from icy winter winds that left me breathless to the return of the daughter to her mother.
I was estranged from my mother for over 18 years. By my own hand, I severed the cord between us, rejected her wisdom out of spite. If the words came from her, they were lies and falsehoods in my mind. I despised the idea of her loving me because, at that time, she couldn’t love me the way I needed her to and I couldn’t give love to her.
The parting of ways was vicious, brutal, and in written form. I wrote a letter describing why I no longer wished her to be a part of my life. I called her out on her behavior toward me as if by doing so she’d fall at my feet and beg forgiveness. Maybe, I expected her to do that. What I hoped to accomplish by writing that letter was to instill guilt and shame with my anger and rejection. I slapped her face and walked into the underworld with my eyes closed to her love.
I attempted, half-heartedly, to re-engage a relationship with her twice in that time. Neither of those times was I ready to see her as anything but a cold woman who withheld affection if I wasn’t perfect. I expected her to be Demeter, the ever loving mother. I held her to such an impossibly high expectation that anything less was not acceptable to me. And so I slept for years without dreaming in the darkest years of my life.
My anger towards her was so venomous to my heart that I plotted her demise in short stories I’d write, a play, a painting, a drawing, and with each creative endeavor, I found nothing. Blank canvases and gray washed depictions of my denied roots, my lost heritage falling behind me in hateful words and actions.
I embraced my lover Hades with such completeness that I lost myself in the darkness. I surrendered my heart to injury, accosting my own heart without thought to the consequences because those, too, were unbearable. I moved through the thickness without finding the light of hope within myself. Where I was had no winds to herald my rebirth for, in a way, I died.
I became a daughter when I realized through the boy I had placed in my custody, just how powerful the love of that child was in my heart. For every bad choice he made, my heart ached and I cried tears of longing for the connection to my own roots. I, before then, had not understood the sacrifices a parent makes to love a child.
I suddenly found the world becoming brighter. A light was dawning, calling me. I could hear the birds telling me to return home. I could see the flowers lined up for inspection against the concrete wall enticing me to return. The smell of my mother’s kitchen haunted my heart. I could feel her reaching out to me. I could feel my shame and guilt that I’d so carefully placed at her feet reminding me that I’d burned that bridge. I could still smell the smoke of that fire I’d set 18 years before.
But I ignored the lies I told myself throughout my time in darkness. I set down my pride in a heaped up pile of scrap at the curb of decision. I reminded myself of her smile, her laughter, her conviction when she saw injustice. I changed how I saw her. The winds shifted and I could hear her calling my spirit with her own. I picked up the phone and physically called her.
That first call was naked. I stood before her shedding my anger, refusing to give in to my fears of rejection, dropping them to the floor like the rags they were. We bonded by being mothers together. I confessed my darkness to her. I explained the reason I’d buried myself in the world. I discarded my shell and reached out my fragile tendrils seeking a grafting to my family tree. She watered my efforts with careful tentative tears of rejuvenated faith in me.
Without anger there was no longer pride or anxiety to hold us apart. For the first time I saw her, not as my mother, but as a woman. I saw her with scars and wounds, some healed, others healing and she was beautiful. I’d forgotten just how lovely she is. I transitioned from plotting her murder to embracing the human woman. I released the winter of my life and embraced the floral scented breezes of spring.
She told me, that although painful, the bridge that I’d set ablaze had been extinguished not long after I started it. She waited hopeful, like Demeter, for my return. When I rediscovered the bridge to return to my ancestral lands, I took out my ropes and my trees and I began working on reparations. I started at my side, she started at hers. When we’d reached a point of understanding and completed the walkway towards one another I sobbed with relief and ran the distance between us with cautious steps, careful words, and noticed the bridge had been reinforced with her love.
After our reconciliation, I returned to Michigan, my home state where my mother lives with my dad. On her 65th birthday, I sat at her dining table in her welcoming kitchen and I drank Kawphy*, ate homemade blueberry buckle (my great grandmother’s recipe), and loved my mom with such a deep sincerity that I tear up writing about it.
After breakfast, she and I went downstairs and onto her patio. She produced the letter I’d written in ancient tongues of a wounded woman/child. I read it and felt ashamed but she wouldn’t allow me to linger on the past. We hugged tightly, cried, and then, together, we lit that letter on fire and let it burn. It was one of the most profound moments of my life.
Not a day goes by that we don’t speak, email, or post something on each others Facebook walls. Our relationship has become a key part of my identity. I know that someday I won’t be able to call her, but to me, that makes what I have with her now so valuable and precious that I can’t imagine taking it for granted or discarding it again. My roots and heritage are found in the wisdom and love of my mother. My only regret is that I took so long to remember I love her.
Spring returns. Persephone has found Demeter once again. I, the daughter, found my way home and together with my mother, we rejoice in rebirth and reclamation of a woman’s wisdom.
*(Kawphy, in my family is a sacred ritual. It is a time of sharing, conversation, and the exchange of ideas that flow like the warm beverage between familial spirits)