Angelina Jolie writes about her late mother, loss, grief & the strength of moms
Angelina Jolie used to choose her moments pretty carefully, especially when it came to writing columns and essays about her work. She would write something for World Refugee Day in Time Magazine, or she would choose to talk about her double mastectomy in a New York Times op-ed. But with the lockdown, Angelina has had time. Time to write, time to do Zoom calls and work on some domestic issues, like food insecurity and hunger. It’s an interesting change – I’m not used to hearing from Angelina in her own words so often about her humanitarian and charity work. Well, Angelina had the time to think about a lot of stuff, and she decided to write another NY Times op-ed, this one about Mother’s Day, refugees and her own late mother, Marcheline Bertrand. This is one of the most personal things I’ve ever read from Angelina, and perhaps the most she’s ever written about her mom. You can read the op-ed here. Here’s the section about Marcheline:
Mother’s Day is hard for anyone who has lost their mom, but this year must be particularly so because of coronavirus. So many people have lost a parent suddenly, without being by their side, able to care for them and return their love in the way they’d always imagined. I lost my mother in my thirties. When I look back to that time, I can see how much her death changed me. It was not sudden, but so much shifted inside. Losing a mother’s love and warm, soft embrace is like having someone rip away a protective blanket.
I got a small tattoo on my right hand after my mother died, knowing that hand tattoos fade. It looks to others like a letter “m.” But it wasn’t an “m” for Marcheline, her name. It was a “w” for “Winter” — the Rolling Stones song she sang to me as a baby, and that I remember loving as a little girl. “It sure been a cold, cold winter,” she would sing to me. And at the line, “I wanna wrap my coat around you,” she would wrap me up in my blankets and snuggle me.
I loved my mom. She was raised Catholic on the South Side of Chicago. My grandfather, who fought in World War II, loved bowling, M*A*S*H, Benny Hill and my grandmother, Lois. My grandmother died before I was born, when my mother was in her twenties. “Diamond Lois,” my mother’s boyfriend called her. Not because she was a socialite but because she scrubbed the floor in her diamonds. Before my grandparents moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s, they ran a bowling alley. Their parents before them ran a bar.
She loved to feel alive. She loved to laugh. When I was down, she would break out those rock songs and remind me of the fire within. One of my early memories is of her lighting candles and placing Beatles albums around the house the night John Lennon was killed. The other time I recall her being worried about a public figure’s health was when Pope John Paul II was shot.
Losing her mother made her deeply sad. When my father had an affair, it changed her life. It set her dream of family life ablaze. But she still loved being a mother. Her dreams of being an actor faded as she found herself, at the age of 26, raising two children with a famous ex who would cast a long shadow on her life. After she died, I found a video of her acting in a short film. She was good. It was all possible for her.
Before her death, she told me that dreams can simply change shape. Her dream to be an artist was in fact her mother’s dream. And later she hoped it would be mine. I think of how true that must be for so many women before us, whose dreams have taken generations to realize. Listening to “Winter” now, I realize how lonely and afraid my mother must have been, but also how determined she was to fight to make sure her children were all right. As the “w” faded on my hand, so did that feeling of home and protection. Life has taken many turns. I’ve had my own loss and seen my life take a different direction. And it hurt more than I imagined it ever would.
But now, with my girls growing up and being the ages I remember so well as a daughter, I am rediscovering my mother and her spirit. She was a girl who danced all night on the Sunset Strip and loved rock ‘n’ roll. She was a woman who loved, even after loss, and never lost her grace and her smile. I now know what it’s like to be alone and to wrap my coat around those I love. And I know the overwhelming sense of gratitude at being strong enough to keep them safe and warm. When your children come into your life, they immediately and forever come first.
[From The NY Times]
“As the “w” faded on my hand, so did that feeling of home and protection. Life has taken many turns. I’ve had my own loss and seen my life take a different direction. And it hurt more than I imagined it ever would.” I AM READY TO FIGHT. I am ready to fight Brad Pitt for hurting Angelina and making her feel that loss of protection. Angelina was so close to her mom, and Marcheline was struggling with cancer for so many years – it wasn’t just about losing Marcheline, it was about seeing Marcheline lose her vitality to cancer. And that trauma cast a long shadow on Angelina’s life. Marcheline passed away more than a decade ago, and I feel like Angelina still hasn’t completely processed it.
Angelina also discussed refugee mothers and abused women, writing: “Women who are abused aren’t “weak women,” they are often mothers. They are often trying to manage danger with no way out. They will stand between their child and harm. They will face isolation and criticism.” I just… I feel like Angelina’s life story is a lot more sympathetic than her harshest critics want it to be.
Photos courtesy of WENN, Avalon Red and Backgrid.
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