Since a very young age I was aware that my Mom had a preference for my brother, though she did her utmost to never show it in her treatment of either one of us. It was just an instinctive feeling that children have and which mostly turn out to be right. So all the time I was growing up I knew that my brother was my Mom’s favorite child, and me, being the youngest, and in our culture a girl to boot was ranked second. I cannot say that as a child I resented that, on the contrary I thought it was right as he was my BIG brother and I always looked up to him, he was the leader and I always followed, so it was only right that he should get more attention.
It is only with our teenage years that my feelings started to change. I felt resentful especially when my Mom and brother made jokes that were beyond my age or understanding, this emphasized that feeling of being left out. This brought on some resentment, but a stronger feeling of competitiveness for the attention and love of my Mom was the main drive of my early teenage years.
Further on in my teens I went through that phase of resenting everything that my Mom did or said, just on principle, and just to be contrary. Typical teenage behavior it seemed but at the time feeling very personal.
The older I grew and the more I matured the better understanding I had of the family interrelationships. My father was always at loggerheads with my brother and maybe that is why my Mom was always acting as a buffer between them, which to my immature view made it appear as preferential treatment. It is only with maturity that I started seeing my parents as individuals, as people, which is quite a transition from those God-like beings who are all powerful and all giving, to fallible, normal human beings, with their strengths and weaknesses, their humor and temper, their love and their anger. And when the God-like image starts to crumble, there is a pendulum swing to the opposite side and you see everything as negative, till you yourself settle down in your own balance and start seeing all those around you with both a critical as well as a loving eye.
With maturity comes the realization that these are normal, ordinary human beings who happen to be your family. You did not choose them, you were born within that entity and raised for the first decade by them, and though you might not be aware of it, had inherited some of those very traits that you at one time thought of as negative and which you had resented. So seeing my parents and my brother with mature eyes I saw a lovely family. My Mom was the dominant personality, but being a very intelligent lady she never showed that to the outside world where we lived in a male dominated society. She always gave my father his position as head of the family and always preserved his dignity, even in front of us, their children, she always made us feel that it was his decision and his word that should be obeyed.
But as we both grew older and more mature we understood all those games that are always played by the different members of the family. We kept up the pretense and all participated in our different roles. We were a very loving family; we each loved all the rest equally but differently. The reason my father and brother were always at loggerheads was because they both had the same temperament and this always caused friction. Added to that was the natural competitiveness felt by my brother during his teenage years, which made friction a bit more acerbic. But there is a very strong basic love that we have for each other which managed to help us get through those very difficult teenage years.
With the change in circumstances, my brother getting married and setting up his own household, then my parents getting old and my taking over a great many of the tasks which they used to do, then finally with the passing away of my father, life took on a different aspect. It was then only my Mom and I, and our relationship, which had improved a great deal after my rebellious phase, now became a deep friendship. The roles were now reversed, I was the adult and she was the one dependent on me. The love between us was very strong because we both discovered, to our surprise, that we were very much alike in temperament. We had the same sense of humor; we both had a very strong love for our pets and a very strong allegiance to family and to country.
The childhood resentment of preferential treatment given to my brother was now just a nostalgic memory, but one that was still a total belief. This was strengthened when just lately I was going through old picture albums and stumbled on one that was exclusively of my brother for the first two years of his life. A full album. Of course I understood. The first child always gets the most attention that was normal. There was nothing like that for me. I looked and there were very few pictures of me that I could find. One particular picture that I found gave me the exact type of relationships within my little family. My Mom and brother were on one side of the picture, he was sitting a bit lower than her and she had her hand on his shoulder, my father was standing next to her, and I was leaning against a rail at the other end of the picture on my own.
I thought this depicted very clearly the dynamics within the family, my Mom and brother as a close entity, then my father standing close by my Mom, then me, just there. This picture brought to the surface those feelings of aloneness I had felt those teenage years. But so much had happened since, the bitterness was gone.
Just lately I was helping out friends who needed a place to stay temporarily, so I offered to put them up at the apartment till they found a permanent one. This necessitates my taking out all my personal belongings that were still there. I never realized how much that was until I started going through all the drawers and cupboards. But I guess one good turn deserves another. As I was going through my Mom’s chiffonier I came across a full album of pictures. On opening it I found it to be a parallel one to the one of my brother, which I had previously found. A full album just of me. I was overwhelmed. And to find it not with the rest of the picture albums but in her own private cupboard was doubly overwhelming. I then started looking at all the rest of the pictures there and they were mostly of me at different stages of my life. No wonder I could not find any pictures of me when I went through the regular albums. I found a box full of my little cards to her on Mother’s Day, postcards I had sent when I was traveling, and even on one occasion a note that I had left for her before going to work. She kept everything. The feeling of being loved and treasured washed over me so strongly it shook me. It has taken me a lifetime to realize that my Mom loved me just as much as I thought she loved my brother. And strangely enough this very late discovery has not made me miss her more, on the contrary I feel even closer to her now, even though she is gone.
20 Oct. 2014