My Mom Was My First Great Love & My First Great Loss

grandmotherShannon Bradley-Colleary coined the phrase “The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful" when she was seven months pregnant, standing in line at the meat counter at Bristol Farms in Beverly Hills. Now this hilarious mom writes about her escapades as a "mom butler" and "Hollywood celebrity magnet" at a blog of the same name.

To celebrate Mother's Day, Shannon shares the story of how she came to appreciate her own mom thanks to her kids. We've all been there, haven't we?:

Here’s my sob story accompanied by violin in A minor: My parents divorced when I was 2. Both remarried. My dad once and forever. My mom (She Who Shall Be Named Culpable) three more times.

There was The Cop, The Fireman, and The Shipping Magnate.


Depending on the marriage, Mom and I lived in a 100-year-old Spanish home in Claremont, a 70-foot sailboat in the Antioch Delta, a little shack on a creek in Larkspur, a 35-foot catch in Alameda, and various apartments ranging from cinder block to marble stone. She carried a 21 Bobcat Beretta in her purse (the cop), was briefly a nudist (the fireman), and became an honorary Italian who tippled martinis in jazz bars (the trumpet-playing shipping magnate).

She was movie-star beautiful, whip smart, volcanically emotional, tender-hearted, and driven-to-the-brink-of-madness by men. She left me in my dad and stepmom’s care when I was 10, intending to take me back when she recovered from divorcing the cop, but at some point there was no going back. I saw her summers and holidays.

She was my first great love and my first great loss.

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of my mom. For about 20 years, I blamed her for everything that was wrong in my life; specifically that I was driven-to-the-brink-of-madness by men (one of them a fireman and another the son of a cop. Dr. Freud? Calling Dr. Freud!). I kept my mom at arm’s length for years because I was angry and never thought I’d need her again. Until now.

Because sharing my daughters with my mom is one of the things that make me happiest. Turns out my mom is: A perfect Grandmother. Today in the park, I sat on the bench and watched her play in the sand with Clare and Bridget. I am sick of the sand. And the monkey bars. And the swings. I am sick of all park things. (Oops, slipped into Seuss-rap.)

From a distance I couldn’t tell what they were doing, but I noticed that several other children had gathered round and my mom was leading them into the bushes from whence they’d return carrying branches, leaves, bramble, and rocks and cluster around their little piles in the sand. Finally curiosity got the best of me and I heaved myself to my feet and slogged over. My mom had 10 toddlers making a sand garden. Some kids were hoeing, some were planting, some were watering, pruning, weeding. They showed me which were “carrots” and which were “ta-toes, peaths, and ketch-up.”

I stood there with the other moms looking at this playground co-op and remembered all the things my mom did right when I was a kid: Kiss and hug me like I were a delectable dessert (probably chocolate in nature). Make me bathe only when there was a ring of dirt around my neck. Let me sneak the pork from her woeful pork 'n' beans to our dog Max who’d eat his own poop. Save honey bees from drowning in our swimming pool because she loved all animals, including insects with stingers, like they were human beings. Give me pig-snuffles in my ear while putting me to bed at night. Bray “Swanee River” horribly off-key when she washed my hair in the kitchen sink. Remove a tick from my ear with the hot end of an extinguished match after a trip to Baja. Dive with me like a monkey on her back through the wild, windswept waves on Henry’s Beach where she grew up in Santa Barbara. And so many other things that are stored in my cells if not my memory.

It’s true her love affairs tore her apart, but she’s been married to The Shipping Magnate, Guido (yes, Guido) since I was 13; i.e. several millenia.

Guido had a massive stroke five years ago, and my mom became his primary caregiver. Now she does everything for him that I do for Clare. We’re living the same life, but while Clare will grow up and become independent, Guido, who fought in World War II and commanded all shipping into Asia, will never walk or talk again. So here I am in a new place, looking at this person who is my mother, transformed by the role of grandmother, I suppose as I’m transformed by the role of mother. I can’t help but stop and wonder just how much my daughter will blame her mistakes and miseries on me? I can only hope that she too will have a daughter one day and forgive me.

For more from Shannon, visit her site: The Woman Formerly Known As Beautiful

Fan her on Facebook: The Woman Formerly Known As Beautiful

Follow her on Twitter: @shannoncolleary

How has parenting changed your perspective on your own parents?

Our series of mom bloggers we love runs throughout May in honor of Mother's Day. Click here to see them all.

Image via Tiberiu Ana/Flickr

Read More >