Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day to the moms in my life & the fellowship of traveling moms

When I decided to write a Mother's Day blog post, I tried to think of the moms who inspire me. I tried to think of famous moms, world-traveling moms, even fictional moms, but came up mostly blank. Instead, the moms that are closest to my heart are the real-life moms who are an actual part of my life.

My beautiful, intelligent, dedicated mom, seen here with me in my grandparents' garden in Sweden, summer of 1969. Her stories about working abroad as a teenager inspired my own decision to travel and work abroad when I was a teen. And how could she object, since she had done the same thing? I know my travels had her worried sick at times, and I know I ended up living literally halfway across the world from her (not her first choice), but she has always been my biggest supporter. And hey, eventually my kids will be old enough to pay me back for any and all youthful transgressions...

My mom's mom, seen here holding me that same summer of 1969. She had a beautiful garden full of strawberries and raspberries, carrots and beets, dill and rhubarb. She baked the best cookies, grew the best flowers, and she was a very smart and strong-willed woman who loved to read and travel. I often wish my kids had gotten a chance to meet her before she passed away. These days when I look in the mirror I sometimes see glimpses of her in my own face. And I don't mind that at all.

My dad's mom, seen here wearing the awesomest 1970s outfit ever. She wove beautiful textiles on her loom, had a special affinity for animals, and she was a star. Not that she was famous, but she was one of those people who have charisma and stand out without really trying. She never traveled very far herself, but she was always there when I came home: like a fixed star at the center of my universe.

Human migration, as told by mom-DNA.
The ancient fellowship of the traveling moms

I don't take the time for a lot of quiet contemplation in the day-to-day messiness of being a mom, but sometimes when I do think about moms, and family, and children, I get a sense of vertigo. I think about myself and my own children, and my mom, and my grandmothers. It's a given that I wouldn't be here without my mom and my grandmothers. My existence, and the existence of every human being, is the result of an unbroken line of mothers, back through time, into the dimmest parts of pre-history.

Through human history, traveling has probably been more common than living in one place for moms. The map above shows the story of human migration, as told by mitochondrial DNA which is inherited from the mother: mom DNA. It shows that human migration started early, tens of thousands of years ago, and in less time than seems possible, humans spread from Africa all the way to Australia. Certainly there were moms and kids traveling those ancient routes.

Early humans were mostly hunter-gatherers and they probably traveled most of the time: moms carrying their infants, holding their older child's hand, looking for something to eat, trying to find a safe place to sleep, maybe telling stories along the way. Then came other migrations, and more traveling moms: crossing oceans in canoes and rafts and ships, traveling across snowy plains, deserts, prairies, mountains.

Like everyone else, I inherited my mom-DNA from a long line of moms. Some of them probably didn't travel very far at all, and some probably made great journeys. Three of them, the ones who mean the most to me, are at the top of this post. Wherever I travel, I always carry them with me and try to pass on some of what I learned from them to my own children.

Happy Mother's Day to all moms, traveling and settled, ancient and modern, mine and yours!

Human migration map thanks to New World Encyclopedia.

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