Healing the Mother Wound
Every year up until my tenth birthday, my parents would drive us down to one of the small coastal beach towns that radiated out of the city of Durban in South Africa. My mother would stay in the rented holiday flat (apartment) and my father would sometimes join my sister and I on the white sand after he had played the horses. A compulsive gambler, he was a distracted man who found it near impossible to sit in one place for longer than an hour. Many years later when we were mothers ourselves, my sister and I wanted to know what our mother did for days on end, and learned that she preferred to stay in and drink until she passed out.
Since we didn’t expect anything from our parents there was no limit to what we could do in and out of the water. We would strip down to our bikini bottoms, collect sea snails and starfish and offer ourselves up as apprentice mermaids to Mother Ocean.
This was back when the beaches were still bejeweled with shells and conches, and so with a large shell pressed to an ear we would decode Mother Ocean’s lessons.
Sometimes we felt we knew exactly what She wanted from us, but mostly we learned Mother Ocean is a mystery.
A circling helicopter is almost always indicative of trouble. A circling helicopter tells us someone is in need of saving or in very close proximity to danger.
It was the helicopter that made me look up. Up until that point, I had been gingerly examining a dead Bluebottle jellyfish in that liminal space between wet and dry land. People were running. Mothers were pulling screaming children out of water. There was a lot of pointing and shouting.
I remember the word SHARK hung suspended in loud letters in the Summer air.
I looked around for my sister while tentacles of panic encircled my tiny, six year old body. And was grateful when I found my father reading the Sunday Times a short distance away from the unfolding evacuation.
I pointed at the helicopter. Told him my sister was in the water and watched the colour drain from his face. The helicopter hovered over a point in the distance for a few more minutes and then just as abruptly as it had arrived it flew away.
The beach emptied until it was only my father and I and the changing horizon.
I remember shivering and wrapping my towel around me. I remember asking Mother Ocean to return my sister to us.
The sun was low over the pink horizon when my sister was deposited on the shore by a curling wave. She was alive and smiling. And babbling about how she had gone further than she intended; past the orange buoys and shark nets.
There is a light within you.
In a tabernacle made of heart tissue.
This light is Holy.
The unmothered among us know how to survive. Like the crab, we know when to grab on and when to retreat.
But surviving is not enough. When in survival mode we deny ourselves the Bounty of Good Things like healthy, mutually satisfying relationships.
In her book Warming The Stone Child, Clarissa Pinkola Estes (I highly recommend the audio book) tells an Inuit story about a boy who became an orphan after his parents had been dragged away one night by bears. This boy was so lonely and so hungry no one wanted to be near him.
Chained to a house, the boy would eat the rancid reindeer and seal meat the people would throw his way. One day the boy set his sights on a stone that was a little out of reach. Every day he pulled at that chain until at last he was able to grab hold onto that stone that was more or less his size. He wrapped his legs around that precious stone and held onto it like his very life depended on it, which in a way it did. In the evenings, the homeward-bound hunters would jeer at him and say he had taken the stone as a wife. Time passed and the stone absorbed all the heat from the boy's body until the boy, near death, began to cry and when his cold tears hit the warm stone, the stone cracked and a beautiful girl emerged.
The girl came bearing gifts. She gave the boy a bow and arrows and a harpoon. The boy, now empowered, married the girl and they made a happy home for themselves.
Unmothered and cold, you believe you need a Big Serving of Love. A love so intense it will melt your heart and keep you safe and warm. It’s this idea, this false belief, that inevitably leads the unmothered into the arms of people who keep serving spoiled reindeer meat. What the Stone Child needs is not love but guidance.
July 2022 and my mother is dead. The doctors say it was cancer but she was a riddle until the end. For some reason her body couldn’t hold onto salt. She was a body of water with no salt.
The ocean receives from the world’s rivers broken up rocks and minerals and transforms these offerings into salt.
What offerings, I wonder, were rejected by my mother?
Your writing and insights are both beautiful. Thank you for sharing. ❤️
I have the deepest goose bumps from this beautiful story… thank you for sharing ❤️