An Ode to Debi.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and my mom, brother and I were able to celebrate together for the first time in over a decade.  It was wonderful to be together (also: my brother had his hooding ceremony for his master’s degree, which was amazing, and proud doesn’t cover it)!

Michael graduates

Anyone who’s had the pleasure of meeting my mom can tell you that she is the coolest.  We’d run into her old school friends at the grocery store or in the church parking lot, and invariably they’d pull me aside, mischief in their eyes.  “Your mom,” they’d say with a wicked grin, “she sure knew how to have fun!”  In middle and high school, my friends would lean against the kitchen island and talk to her, smitten.

During my freshman year at college – my first time at a fraternity – a senior from my hometown said, “Wait – you’re Mrs. Dixon’s daughter?  She was the hottest teacher at my school!”  Her natural, contagious joy has inspired her to dance atop a picnic table or two.


Somehow, this beautiful, effervescent woman had a daughter who was shy and anxious and had to be grounded from reading and told to go play outside.  She tried her best to teach me to wear make-up and encouraged me to stay out a little later if I wanted to.  Despite our differences, this woman has always been home to me.  She looked at this nervous little person she birthed into this world and loved me immediately and without reservation.

When she lost her husband and was left with two gutted teenagers, she grabbed us each by the hand and marched forward.  She not only kicked cancer’s butt, she learned to sit with herself in the quiet and listen, and how to start trusting the wisdom that bubbled up.

She went on a summer study abroad in Athens, Greece – the only participant (besides the professor) over 50.  And then she decided to retire from teaching to write a book.

But what I treasure most is that she has been courageous enough to share her broken places, too.  Feelings of inadequacy.  The fearful, desperate moments.  Times she felt like she had to ignore the unique beat of her heart to go along, to be loved.  Her willingness to share her truth, rather than a sanitized, cheery version of events, is a powerful gift for her children.  We are learning that we can be broken, too, and we can also be okay.  We can be afraid and also brave.

And through it all, we can dance on picnic tables.