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May 17, 2016

We set aside one day a year to celebrate mothers. My husband and I send roses to his mother, now nearly ninety. When my sons remember to call or email, it makes my day. No matter how old we get, we never outgrow the need to feel loved and special to the ones we love and care for. Some people say Mother's Day is just a commercial attempt to get us to buy cards and gifts, but I say, who cares? It's an opportunity all too rare to appreciate the women in our lives.

My relationship with my own mother was a painful one. She was a beautiful woman in every way, but our connection was elusive. In the deep South of the United States where she was raised, a woman was expected to give her husband sons. When I was nearly two years old, she gave birth to twin boys. After that, I rarely felt her attention, and struggled for years to believe that I was a person of value, someone worthy of love. What has healed my heart throughout my lifetime are close friendships with women who mother, sister, befriend and nurture me and allow me to do the same for them. This same need exists in many island women I have come to know - women given to relatives or raised by grandparents or feeding parents. The question lingers, why was I given away? What was lacking in me that my birth mother didn't want me? Yes, it is a traditional practice, yet these feelings still arise. Here, as anywhere else, women need the healing balm of bonding with other women. Over the centuries men have been the warriors, who learned in the face of danger to either fight or take flight. There is a strong bond that develops in a band of brothers, whether they fish together, soldier together or play sports. Women have kept the home fires burning, cared for the children and the men. In every culture, women tend and befriend. We come together, to form a circle of love. Without a personal circle of trusted sisters, a woman will feel lost and lonely.

What does it take to create such an inner circle? Personally I believe it is important to have friends outside the family, free of the family dramas, dynamics and expectations. It isn't about having lots of friends. It's about finding true friends.  Author Alice Walker said, "I don't need a certain number of friends, just a number of friends I can be certain of." Women who can be trusted, who will not judge us, or spread rumors from private things we share, women who offer unconditional love. Psalm 17:17 says, "A friend loveth at all times…" My oldest friend has loved and companioned me through the good, the bad and the ugly for decades, and has never once judged me.

Just as men relax in the company of other men, women need the presence of others who do not compete, judge, criticize, or give unasked for advice, but listen with compassionate curiosity, and hold each other's stories with understanding and confidentiality. The willingness to protect each other's privacy -- being completely trustworthy about personal information that is not to be shared with others -- allows us the freedom to share our true story and to be one another's story keepers. That is something to be aware of in small towns and villages where gossip is recreational and constant.

A Hindu proverb says: "The genuine friend, who is affected with the joys and sorrows of another, is a medicinal cordial, the sanctuary of the heart, the delight of the eyes, and worthy of confidence." To have a friend, we must be a friend.

Mothering is something both men and women can give. That longed for unconditional love allows us to walk through the journey of life with more faith and courage, knowing someone is there for us always and that we are never alone.


Author photo
Linda Kavelin-Popov

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