Mom. Such a simple word, yet so loaded with meaning and memory. It’s where we all come from. It’s what we simultaneously yearn for and yet try to escape from. My own mother often jokes that the umbilical cord is never fully cut. It just stretches to accommodate.
There’s some truth in that.
Although I’ve only been able to admit that more recently.
For most of my childhood, it was just my mom and I. She worked long hours (Five Ways You Know You’ve Been Raised by a Therapist) so that we could stay in the house and I could stay in the same schools. That consistency provided early security that gave me roots from which to grow. We were close. Sometimes too close. A perimenopausal woman and a hormonal teenager can be quite the powder keg at times!
She tackled a lot as a single mom. She and my dad had purchased a VW Vanagon when I was little. That blue box on wheels became home base for my mom and I as we started our traditions of camping at Lost Maples every Thanksgiving and spending weeks at the Kerrville Folk Festival every summer. I learned the importance of layering against the cold and staying wet in defense of the heat. I learned how to play miniature golf on a closed course using a croquet set (The trick? Spanish moss in the hole so that you can retrieve the ball). I learned that it’s important to secure the screens against the racoons and that butane curling irons let a self-conscious 11 year old girl fix her hair even while she’s camping. I learned the joy of being silly as we played our kazoos on the drives to the campgrounds and invented crazy dances (don’t even ask – not putting the pumpkin dance on YouTube:) ). She instilled in me a love of nature, simple laughter and of quiet escape. I am so thankful to have had those experiences and to be able to continue them forward. Only without the kazoos!
She didn’t always have it easy raising me. I was a willful child, prone to impatience and peppered with perfectionism. Some things don’t change:) She did a great job of adjusting her parenting to fit me rather than trying to get me to fit into some standard mold. I may have to only mom who had to get onto her kid about the importance of NOT doing my homework (I would beg to leave some of those camping trips early so that I could get back to my work)!. She knew that I pushed myself hard enough (or even too hard) and that her usual role was to encourage me to ease up, not to push me further. At the same time, she recognized those situations where I needed some encouragement and she would not let me weasel my way out (Vanilla, Please).
Yet still, I spent most of my life trying to separate from my mom, as though I could not find myself while till securely tied to her. That’s the thing with moms – we need them but we don’t always want to need them.
Several years ago, my mom prepared a gift for her own mother. She obtained photographs of the matriarchal line in the family going back 7 generations. She worked to size and crop the images to provide uniformity and then mounted them in a long rectangular frame, each woman’s face peering out from a separate oval cut into the tawny mat.
It took my breath away. That line of mothers and daughters. Beginning with a woman that I had never met yet whose lineage I carried and ending with a picture of me. Each daughter a product of the mother before.
Many of those closest to me have lost their mothers, either through death, distance or dementia. Some had their moms for much of a lifetime, some for only a number of years and others never met them at all. Yet they all still carry the imprint of their mothers on their hearts.
They have taught me to be thankful for my own mother. To be grateful for the moments and memories we share.
She is my biggest cheerleader when things are going well and my biggest supporter when my world collapses.
I love the relationship I now have with my mom. I need her and I’m okay with that. Love you, mom:)