My mother was always important to me, always a key figure in my development. She was not the perfect mother, but how many of us are? I think that might be an unrealistic expectation; a childish fantasy. I decided long ago to cut her some slack.
If I held her responsible for all my neuroses I would never have a chance at overcoming them on my own. I would never grow up. But then again, my mother was never a monster. I wonder if it is even possible to accept the shortcomings of a mother who actually tries to do her children harm? It is easier to forgive ignorance than it is to forgive meanness.
In many ways my Mom was the typical woman and mother of her working class, Midwestern U.S.A. milieu. Those mothers from Tim Brokaw's Greatest Generation did not pay close attention to their children's psychological well-being. For them, knowing right from wrong was simple, they did not think overmuch about the gray areas.
Things changed in the 1960's, and I don't think the older generations ever understood how complex and challenging the world became for their children. I have spent my whole life trying to figure out right from wrong, often making it up as I go along. For better or worse, that sort of moral confusion was a foreign concept to my mother.
She tried to be a good person. Sometimes she fell short, but overall she was kind and good. She could also be quirky and stubborn. I liked that part of her the best. She loved her family in a simple, casual way. However, it has been neither simple nor casual letting her go.
I think my mother's best maternal quality was that she accepted her children for who we were as children and for who we became as adults. In retrospect, that was huge. She trusted love. Not many of my friends' mothers were so accepting. And with seven strong-willed (and very different) baby-boomer children that couldn't have been easy.