I’m thinking about moms, yours and mine.
My mom visited here a few weeks ago. She lives far away (2 planes then a 2 hour drive) and I don’t get to see her very often. She is, of course, getting older. Usually when she leaves, I feel sad for a day or two but this time it’s lasting much longer. When I think about her, my eyes get a little fuzzy with tears and my throat feels like something resembling a clamp has tightened onto it. So many of my friends in suburbia are worried about their mom, whether it’s concern for their health or safety, and my mind is filled with thoughts of them and of my own mother. So here goes, and I hope you indulge me in a little shameless adoration of my mom.
Ever since you left, I have been thinking a lot about you and the things I want to tell you but either haven’t had the courage or the time to express. So, put down your coffee and your to-do list and please listen. No, I am fine. The kids are fine. Stop worrying, just listen!
1. Please take care of yourself. You are my only parent. It makes me nervous when you do things that might put your health in jeopardy like delaying a doctor’s appointment or climbing on a roof (yes, my mother would climb on a roof. I’ve seen her do it). You are important to me! It terrifies me to think of something happening to you.
2. I’m sorry for all the times I hurt you and made you worry. You know all my most embarassing moments and STILL you don’t write a book and tell everyone about them. Even though it would be hilarious. I’m still sorry I screamed at you after that perm that made me look like a poodle. Being stupid came easy to me. It still does, sometimes.
3. Please tell me I am doing a good job with my kids. I am aware that they are great kids, fabulous even! But hearing you say it is monumentally important to me. Even though you are the same person who let Dad tell me to pee in a bucket in a moving vehicle because he didn’t want to stop on our way to our summer vacation.
4. Enjoy your life. My one persistent thought that makes me feel better about not living close to you is that you are happy. I can see it in your face when you talk about Jim and your garden and where you live. So many of my friends wish their moms had someone to share their lives with. I am grateful you are not lonely, but could you be less mushy-gushy-lovey? That freaks me out a little. Thanks.
5. Stay active and engaged. I know I can always talk politics with you, or movies or books or whatever. I know you still take a bite out of life, use your brain and care about learning new things. It used to bug me that you are so annoyingly cheerful, like your answering machine message which for years had “Don’t worry, be happy” playing in the background while you virtually sang your message. Seriously. Or the way you always approached strangers and exclaimed what a glorious day it was! I remember wanting to hide behind a rock. Now, I am just proud of your quirkiness.
6. I value your honesty. It would be out of your comfort zone to criticize me, which I TOTALLY appreciate. But you can give yourself permission to be honest with me about things that are hard for you. Things you are scared about. Things you want to talk about. I can handle it now, I am not a kid anymore. You can trust me. You have helped make my arms strong enough to carry you when YOU need it.
7. You are one of the most important people in my life. Sometimes it takes me too long to get in touch with you and my busy life keeps me from connecting. Always know you are a priority to me.
8. My children treasure you. Thanks for being the kind of grandparent that the kids actually want at their birthday parties. Not everyone can say that. Your newsy and thoughtful letters, the way you are completely absorbed in their stories: these things are priceless to them.
9. Thank you for the lesson of living with less. We didn’t have much growing up. There were many times we went without. Even though my own children have much more than I had, the grace with which you lead us in the difficult times has strengthened my resolve to not spoil my kids. You taught me that love is what sustains, not pricey gifts or impermanent comforts. You taught us that a simple hubcap could be the best Christmas present ever.
10. Thanks for doing the tough shit that you didn’t want to do. You and Dad cleaned my Catholic elementary school on the weekends so Jen and I could go there tuition-free. I will never forget how it must have felt for you to do something like that, the commitment you had to making a better life for us and the shame I feel because of how embarassed I was at the time. Your sacrifice humbles me. Also, thanks for reading all my work even though I say fuck a lot.
11. Even when the three of us make fun of you, it’s because we love you. Let’s face it, mom. You are hopelessly easy to make fun of. It’s almost impossible for us to resist the way you twirl up your hair into a bun, your Christmas sweaters, your endless written lists/schedules, the way you sit 3 inches from the steering wheel, okay I’ll stop now.
12. I wish I had gotten some of your best qualities. I regret not acquiring the ever elusive traits that I sincerely wish were passed onto me genetically: red hair, the ability to repair a toilet/build a room single-handedly/fix virtually any broken object, the ability to sew/mend/crochet, your organizational abilities, your patience and most importantly your faith. Not just religious faith. Your unabashed, maniacal, divinely inspired faith that everything will be all right. As evidenced by your willingness to fly to see my first born child three days after 9/11 /01 on a nearly empty flight in a nearly empty airport. I was never so happy to see anyone in my life.
I love you, Mom.
Readers, tell me why you love my mom too! Or your own mom for that matter!
Allow me to introduce Barbara Paulsen, I will be using her phenomenal photos in my posts (including the two above):
“I’ve been a scrapbooker for ages, but when my husband gave me my first iPhone I became a photographer. I took an online course in 2010 called `The Slice of Life Project’ by Darrah Parker and this course, along with meeting countless other people in the photography community, began my adventure into iPhoneography. I want to document my big, beautiful, messy life, right here in the suburbs. And, my hope is that you will recognize a piece of yourself (the magic in your own life) in my photos. Enjoy!” ~mthoodmama photos by Barbara Paulsen