By Jaye Wells
The only items my mother left me upon her death were a pair of antique lamps. Starting with my great-great grandmother, who received them as wedding gifts, the lamps were handed down to the eldest daughter of each generation.
While beautiful, I hated them. They sat on a side table in my foyer, taunting me each time I walked past. Many times, I contemplated donating them to Good Will. But my ingrained Catholic guilt, along with a displaced sense of duty prevented me.
Why was it that thirty-two years, a funeral and hours of therapy could not severe the umbilical cord of guilt that tightened like a noose around my psyche?
When alive, mother (never mom or mommy) kept me in constant fear that one day she would withdraw her love. In actuality, she never loved me--I didn't realize that until much later.
As I aged, the threat of withdrawing love became the threat of withdrawing monetary support. She decided my college major(accounting) and even the men I dated ("Darling, he's new money--how gauche"). I followed her dictates like an addict, needing that next fix of approval.
Then she died in her sleep. And I found out that playing by the rules had gotten me nothing but a pair of fucking lamps.
But now they symbolize something different. They're a reminder of the day the light finally clicked on inside me and I was free—the day my mother died.