Motherhood's many secrets

Eilse T. Chisolm

May 07, 1991|By Elise T. Chisolm

MOTHER'S DAY approaches and I'm thinking of the fine points of being a mother and the many ways they differ from fathers.

There are some obvious differences, but there are also aesthetic differences which cannot be defined in tangible terms.

You see, mothers possess many secrets.

Mothers have always had their own personal universe where they harbor the joys and the disappointments. The little corners of their souls hold hundreds of private thoughts.

Perhaps it's because mothers cradle the baby for nine months, nurture the baby and keep that unseen umbilical connection with the child -- the tie that binds. Forever.

And therefore the secrets become almost sacred. A woman who has known motherhood holds the baby as she holds the secrets.

L Just what are the secrets that mothers keep in their hearts?

They are about terrible troubles or failures that are told to them, or about the wonderful moments a child shares with a mother in confidence because they are so very personal.

A mother keeps her child's feelings in her own depository marked ''private.''

The woman/mother collects intricate pieces of turmoil that are woven as tightly as a tapestry -- lasting a lifetime.

Because I am sixtysomething I have held many secrets in my heart.

There is the day when your child comes home and tells you something so bad that you don't want to hear it. But you always listen. The thing is dark. Perhaps it is something he or she has done. But because you are a mother you give solace or mete out the punishment as the case may be. The thing is so onerous that you do not tell the child's father.

There's a time when someone close to you tells you distressing news about someone you know, and you realize the teller just needed reassurance that there might be a way out, a solution.

From attempted suicide, abhorrent behavior to infidelities and injustices, I've heard the gamut of human frailty.

But unlike a doctor or a counselor I can't report it or cure it. All I do is listen and console . . . and store it away.

A friend asks my advice about something most delicate. I give cautious advice, then I hold her hand while I hold her secret.

Mothers learn not to condemn.

Mothers love unconditionally, because the door through which the child enters life is through the mother, and a man cannot experience that.

And this is not to denigrate fatherhood or its beautiful, fulfilling role, it is just to give a round of applause to mothers everywhere who have ''witnessed'' and held the secrets.

I am proud that we can transmit the understanding when the secret is passed to us.

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