I will be posting a series of art stories to my blog that chronicles my journey as an artist and writer.
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Art Story #1– My Mother’s Day Card
“White Iris” Oil on Watercolor Paper 9 x 12
Available at Daily Paintworks
A lot of my art and writings have been inspired by conversations with my mother. She has been my biggest fan and my greatest inspiration. She has encouraged me to pursue writing and painting as hobbies. My mother has always been creative, and I know I have inherited my creative abilities from her.
I don’t believe I would have started writing, let alone began painting, if it were not for my mother telling me one thing: “You’ve got a story to tell. If you don’t tell it your way, someone else will, and you may not like it.”
When she told me these words, I was only a teenager, asking her advice about a story idea to submit to Reader’s Digest magazine. That was the first time I felt a desire to write. I didn’t know what to write about, though. I didn’t have a story to tell. I hadn’t lived life enough to have a story to tell. I was a young girl from a strict and devout Primitive Baptist upbringing. My father was a preacher and a farmer, and my mother was a preacher’s wife. Both of them, in my eyes, were the moral equivalent of Mary and Joseph from the Bible. There were no dramatic childhood events that shaped my life. So what story did I have to tell?
I pondered over this question for days. Then I went to my mother to ask her what I could write about. She was standing in the kitchen over a pot of chicken pastry–she made the best chicken pastry. One day I will post her recipe here on my blog. I can taste it now. But I digress–My mother thought for a moment and then sat down at the kitchen table to recount her story of my older brother. One I had never met. My mother and father had nine heads of children. Let me correct that. They had ten. My mother carried a child for nine months, but gave birth to a still-born baby. It would have been my parents’ fifth child.
I had never heard that we had another sibling until this day. I was blown away by the revelation. Why didn’t I know this information? Wasn’t this something the whole family should have had knowledge of?
My mother informed me that the older children knew of this baby, but my parents felt the younger children wouldn’t understand what happened, so they were never told. I was one of those younger children. I was the third youngest of nine children.
My mother described how painful it was to have carried this baby for nine months and then to lose the child. She had bonded with the child inside her, so when she lost him, she grieved for him as if he had been with her for some years. This was the first time I can remember connecting with my mother as a friend. A true friend. She opened up and shared something so personal with me. Her daughter. Her teenaged daughter. I couldn’t fathom any of the pain she had experienced, being so young myself, but I could empathize with her since it was my brother that I had lost. Finding out that I had another sibling and losing him in the same conversation brought a sense of loss over me that was overpowering. It hit me harder than I thought it would. I grieved for days over the news.
When I was able to process the news in my young mind, I sat down at the kitchen table to try to tell my mother’s story in my words. To try to understand her pain from her daughter’s point of view. I showed her my first draft, and she couldn’t help but to cry, telling me that seeing the words to her pain on paper hurt more than she had remembered.
I submitted the story to Reader’s Digest, but it did not get published, however. But it did spark my interest in writing.
Since that day my mom and I have grown closer and closer. I used to judge my moral compass by how I saw my mother and father live their lives, and I believed I could never live up to the standards that a preacher and his wife set for their children. No one could. And when I realized just how much I was a failure in comparison, a guilt-ridden cloud covered my life. Nothing I did was ever good enough in my eyes. However, I was my worst condemner. No one else saw me the way I saw myself.
I didn’t realize this until my mother told me how she saw me one day when I wanted to leave the church that I had joined, only because I believed that was where I was “supposed” to be because that was the church my father was pastor of for many years. My mother was so proud of me when I joined that church. I felt like I was living the life she had envisioned for me. After several years at this church, I discovered that I wasn’t receiving what I needed to grow in my faith and decided to leave and find another church. I was so torn and conflicted about leaving, feeling that I was somehow turning my back on my parents’ faith, turning my back on my walk with God, and turning my back on God Himself. I agonized over the decision for weeks before I came clean to my mother. I just knew she was not going to understand. I believed she would feel my leaving would be a slap in her face after spending her life as a devout Primitive Baptist.
I will never forget her words: “You can’t live the life I want for you any more than I could live the life my mother wanted for me. You have to live your life for you and you only.” My mother didn’t realize how much she saved my life that day when she told me those words. I was on the verge of losing it because I had spent the majority of my life trying to please all the people that were important in my life. When you try to do that, you get pulled in so many different directions, and you feel like your life is a rubber band, stretching and yielding to others’ demands. Then when everything goes awry, you bounce all over the place trying to recover and find yourself. I was tired of the roller coaster ride. I had to live my life for me and me alone. I eventually left that church.
That day, my mother gave me permission to be my true self. I didn’t have to try to please everyone. Even if I tried, I never could. I learned to say “No” to things I didn’t want to do and not feel guilty about it. That was my weakness in the past, and I burned myself out trying to be everything to everybody but to myself. I started putting myself first and letting my decisions be guided by that act.
My husband told me I had changed drastically during this time. Actually, he said I was mean. I know I was, but when you tell someone no and are adamant about it, it can come across as mean. That is what my intentions were, and I was not going to change them. I liked the person I was becoming, and others could either like me or not. Those that didn’t like the new me, could step aside, and many did. I was on the other side of forty, and the second half of my life was going to be lived on my terms. I was able to do this because my mother gave me her blessing.
It is amazing how the ties to your childhood can have a stranglehold on you in adulthood. The more you try to run away from those ties, the more entangled you can become. It is only when you disentangle those ties that bind your true self that you are freed.
I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for my mother. She helped me to discover things about myself that took my lifetime to learn: I am fiercely loyal. I am even more fiercely protective of the ones I love. I am slow to anger but brutal in my anger. I know my insecurities and weaknesses and embrace them as they force me to learn more about myself. I draw upon my Godly constitution for strength and determination.
I am the woman my mother helped to mold, and I am still discovering new facets of myself everyday. If you can establish a friendship with your mother, please do so. Having a mother as a friend is a gift from God. This is my mother’s day card to my mother.
Stay tuned for my next installment of art stories.
What are some of your Mother’s Day stories? Post in the comment section below.
I am an artist and author of southern and historical fiction and short stories.
Visit My Art Website: http://katrinaparkerwilliams.weebly.com/
Read my Blog: https://katrinaparkerwilliams.wordpress.com/
View my artwork on my artist page at Daily Paintworks.