Who I am: My name is mother.

Today I was driving into downtown Vancouver, looking up at the apartments in the sky. I imagine myself living in an apartment in the sky.  I envision a life of living downtown, walking for coffee, shopping and being anonymous.  I imagine this life as if it was the life I have yet to live. The one that I forwent many years ago for love and family.

I remember when we got married, my brother in law warned my husband that I was the kind of person who would someday leave to find myself.  I never understood that comment, but on the other hand, I have never really felt like I am where I am supposed to be.  I have always felt like an impostor no matter the ‘job’ of the day.  

Most days I wonder who I am. Correction. I wonder all the time who I am.  I think the source of this wonderment is the fact that I am a mother, and I have built a life of servitude and self-sacrifice for my children. A nameless person with a title, a role, a purpose to fulfill.  This was reaffirmed this week when many times I was introduced as “this is my mother” but never by name. I have a name. It is Lynn. Looking back I can see where I lost me.  

On the day that my first baby was born, I was 25 years of age.  I had been married six years by then. 19. That’s the age I was when I was married.  At 19, I knew very little about the world, or myself. I knew that I was afraid and unsure of myself. I knew that I had to be number one in my new husband’s eyes. I knew that I did not want a life of fighting, alcoholism or drugs.  I knew that I wanted to someday go to school. I knew that I wanted to be a writer.  I knew that I wanted to live in another city, and maybe become a designer or an architect.  I knew that I wanted to be  . . . someone and something.  

And so at 19 I was married. We moved immediately to Calgary where my husband went to school and I worked as a medical claims adjuster for a large insurance company.  We lived in an apartment on 14th Avenue South West.  My husband walked up the hill to SAIT every day and I took the bus downtown. I brought home $800 dollars a month and our rent was $650.00.  We saved money to buy the basics like groceries and gas. 

In the 1980’s, interest rates escalated to 19%. Some people lost their homes. We moved back to Regina at the age 23. We bought our first house for $36,000. We had our first baby two years later, and then we had our second baby three years later. I was selling educational savings plans working on straight commission.  And then we moved to Calgary again for a job, but less than one year later, we moved back to Regina, unable to sell our house here.  I registered for university with the intention of becoming a journalist.  Six months into school, my husband was laid off again, and we made the decision for him to return to university as well.  

During those years, everything was a trade off. Food for gas. Gas for entertainment. Entertainment for clothes.  Clothes for bills.  We lived in a vicious cycle of no money, no food, nowhere to go, and no money to go there with.  It was clear we were going nowhere in a hurry; the good news was, our children were too young to know we were poor. We figured that if we were going to be poor, we should do it when he children were young and wouldn’t know the difference. 

For five years, we attended full time classes taking on a student role.  I attended school, spent the evenings with our children driving to and from dance lessons and doing homework, and then, after they went to bed, I did homework until the wee hours of the morning.  Student loans and part time jobs sustained us but it was worth the sacrifice, for all of us. By 1996,  I graduated with two degrees, and got my first job. My husband finished his degree shortly after.

In the years to follow, I assumed more titles to add to my mother role - communications officer. policy analyst, manager, executive, vice president . . .  I told myself these roles were the path to who I am.  That these roles would lead me to the promised land of being someone someday, worthy of a name.  Turns out I was wrong about that.  It turns out all titles and roles are impermanent. I found that once the title was gone, I was no longer part of the circle, and I would find myself on the outside looking in, once again.  As my children grew up, their titles changed to adults.  They have names in the world. The mother title, however, is unchanging. ‘This is my mother.’ Recently, our oldest daughter had a baby. They want to call me ‘grandma.’ I prefer my name. Lynn.

And so here I am, looking up at the apartments in the sky, wondering about what that life would be like, and if that life is the one where I would have a name, finally.