Happy Mother’s Day, friends! Since I can’t be there with my mama today, I wanted to share some thoughts.
Anyone who’s spent at least five minutes in my company knows I’m obsessed with my mother. Just in the last few years, she got her personal trainer’s license for fun, spent a summer on study abroad in Athens, and was chosen to be one of the models for the hospital’s ad campaign after beating breast cancer. In short, she’s a badass.
When my brother and I were little, she was an amazing mix of irreverent fun and unreserved support, with a dash of not taking any shit. If we complained, she simply asked if we wanted any cheese with that whine and sent us on about our business. At dinner, she’d squish mashed potatoes through her teeth and smash in some corn and smile at us until we laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe, but to this day, if you yawn without covering your mouth, she’ll poke her finger into it.
Even though she always laughed at us when we fell off our bikes in a particularly amusing way, there were many times she protected us like we were glass. Well into my middle school years, she’d be dropping me off at a friend’s house and would sense my anxiety-induced stomach ache – she never let me go back home, but she’d turn to me as I dilly dallied in the car and ask, “Do you want me to get you settled?” She’d walk in and talk to the friend’s mother while I eased into the idea of spending the night away from home.
In my teenage years, our family endured a wave of hurt: my mother’s sister and father both died of cancer, and then my dad died unexpectedly, all in a four-year span. She hid the worst of her sadness from us, keeping our home as stable and happy as possible, even though we spent that next year in a kind of trance. But more beneficial was how we got to see her grow in the years that followed. We’d always joked that we had three kids and one parent, and after we heard the news about my dad, she took my shoulders in the hospital bathroom and said, “One of us has to grow up.”
She took care of all the things one has to take care of after losing a spouse: selling his business, his car, and his mid-life Harley. She guided one child into high school and another into college. And then she began to reclaim her joy.
Her youthful spirit, which had sometimes crossed into rebellion, began to mature into confidence and independence. Previously only happy surrounded by friends, she ventured to Florida on a solo vacation. Despite her infamous fear of needles, she returned home with a tattoo of a sparrow (halfway through, she asked the tattoo artist if they had any chardonnay – she turned down his offer of a beer), symbolizing her new free existence.
She has been an example of how life is a series of opportunities – chances to learn, and to choose happiness – and that the rewards of living an authentic life far outweigh the pain and embarrassment we all experience along the way. Every day I am grateful to know her, and when I doubt myself, her love is the only proof of my worth that I need.
Whatever her next adventure is, I can’t wait to hear all about it!