Yes, that’s quite the statement, but it doesn’t have the modern meaning. I was actually raised lovingly by my mother and maternal grandmother. No external male influences – just them, me and my brothers. We all turned out ok, even though I say so myself.
I haven’t really written that much about what my upbringing was like – to me it was normal. Yes, most of my friends had Dads and nuclear families. We didn’t. But that was just the way it was.
Grandma Lena moved in with us when I was little, and stayed home to take care of the children, the cooking and the house, while my mother went out to work to make sure we had food in our bellies and clothes on our backs. She worked very hard, and as a child I just took it for granted.
I am very much like my Grandma in some regards. I am loud and outspoken and had a big mouth even back then. We used to get into these shouting matches as if it were a competition on who could be the loudest. She was 5 ft tall, on a good day, but round and cuddly, and she hid chocolate bars (Lion Bars if I remember correctly) in the second drawer down of a particular cupboard in the front room. We were so sure my mother didn’t know about that. By the time I was 12 I was taller than her, but she could intimidate me easily when she needed to. She was a battle-axe, but a loving one. You just did not want to get on the wrong side of her.
When I went out with my friends to the pictures or for a bite to eat, she’d always slip me a five pound note and tell me “don’t tell your mother”.
When I picture her I see her sitting in her armchair, a cup of tea in hand, with her feet up, looking out over the back garden. Unfortunately she passed away soon after turning 80, the year my oldest son – her first great-grandchild – was born.
My Mum and I are very different. She’s quiet and reserved, and measures her words before speaking them. We barely fought while I was growing up. I would do so much just to get a rise out of her, yet she always seemed to know what was just me goading her, and what was normal teenage behavior. At one point she affixed a note to the inside of the front door: Hadassah, it is not vital nor extremely necessary for you to slam this door. (Or similar words to the same effect. This was decades ago!)
I am sure it wasn’t easy raising us three kids – but my Mum and Grandma filled the house with everything we needed: love, food, support, a Jewish education, and family values. We were raised to think for ourselves, and that’s how I have tried to raise my boys.
Do I feel I missed out on having a “normal” family? No, not really. I am who I am today because of everything I have been through. Had I been raised in a textbook nuclear family my life would have developed on a very different tangent. I wouldn’t change a thing but that doesn’t mean that as a child I didn’t dream of things being different. I suspect that is normal for a child of divorce.
My Mum and Grandma sacrificed a lot to raise us, and it’s only as a mother myself that I can finally understand and appreciate that. I began to appreciate it even more when I myself became a single mother.
This post originally appeared on my blog In The Pink.
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