But in the past few weeks, with Daughter graduating high school and simultaneously embarking on her first serious relationship, I see how there was no need to wear that yoke at all.
After nearly forty-five years of poignantly feeling the absence of family - with the crescendo happening through my 30s and dwindling down as I coasted through my early 40s. And perhaps, upon this writing, I may have ditched it altogether.
Mother talked yesterday of her feelings getting on the boat in Cobh, Ireland in January 1967, a mere few months before my birth here in Toronto, Canada. I have heard her talk of this before but it seems that yesterday I really heard her for the first time. Perhaps it is because I am now 45 with a young female daughter at the dawn of her own life journey that I can see how the decisions of our forefathers really come home to roost on the subsequent generations. And I see how the yoke I was wearing is non-existent for my daughter. I am sure she has her own limiting shackles that will cause fear and trepidation to creep into her decisions since I am far from the perfect parent that I set out to be 18 years ago and heck, life is just like that. But the yoke I had, the yoke that demanded family where there was none, the one that demanded substitute family in lieu of the real thing (leading to decisions like joining self help groups and immersing myself in, gasp, strict catholicism - complete with an anulled marriage - until my early 30s), the one that led one early boyfriend to affectionately point out the chip on my shoulder (regularly), that yoke seems rather ridiculous today.
Because, what I heard from my mother yesterday was how she wanted to dance when the boat pulled away from that dock in Cobh. I heard about how all of the immigrants nearly danced with joy. There was celebration and no tearful goodbyes. The people that got on that boat wanted very badly to leave Ireland. My parents themselves were literally escaping the shame of my too early birth and on the boat my mother was relieved to let the waist of her clothes out and be publicly very pregnant for the first time. On that boat, there was no talk of regret, there was just anticipation of a new life in a country that offered a religious and personal freedom that was unimaginable to the immigrants on that boat. A country where a marriage date and a subsequent birth date would not be held up for inspection and judgment by an entire community - a community that shunned regularly, with females being the favourite target.
And now, over forty five years later I wish I could go back in time and join my parents on that boat and lead the dance. And then go back in time again and tell my 18 year old self to drop the yoke. But heck, life's just like that, right?
And oh yeah, Happy 145th Birthday Canada and thx for welcoming a couple of knocked up newlyweds back in 1967 - this vast country provided a safe refuge that has allowed our tiny family to explore cultures/lifestyles/cuisines/ambitions/relationships/careers/places that would never have been dreamed possible had I been raised in the not-quite-former-church-state known as Ireland.