Moments in May

Grandfather's land, view from where the 
windmill once stood, 35 km NW of Zhytomyr

It’s been 19 years since I visited Ukraine. That trip blew my mind … and started spinning the arms of a ghostly windmill. It was on the red stone ruins of that forgotten windmill, I found the heart of my lost family. Traveling the confusing history of collectivization, of deportation, of terror, of a collapsed communist regime, I found a battered Ukrainian village and the stepping stones for my family stories.

May is also the month I first became a mother ... something which redefined my relationship with my own mother. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I could see the broken child in her, when she held my newborn daughter for the first time. She looked up at me and suggested that love for babies was wasted because they’d never remember it. I felt sorry for her and protective of my bundle of joy which seemed to sit in her arms more like an awkward doll, then a real human being.  

Until that day she held my daughter, I’d seen my mom as older, wiser, someone to please and look up to.  Now, suddenly, we were peers. We were both mothers. However, it seemed to separate us rather than bring us together.

The chasm deepened with my next two kids as I spent more time and emotional energy on my young family. After my father died, my mother asked that I treat her like one of my children. She wanted me to mother her. 

It was a challenging time … for me and for her. But when I went to Ukraine, when I found the remains of the windmill, when I researched, wrote and experienced her story, the power of her losses, I began to understand. My mother was indeed jealous of the family I had created. She was still mourning her lost family of childhood. 

It began on that kulak farm and those losses followed her throughout her life. 

Windmill ruins.  First destroyed by Stalin.
No doubt these won't survive
Putin's war.

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