Isn’t it funny how we celebrate birthdays in terms of the person who was born, instead of the person who actually got them here? I just showed up all those years ago- my mom is the one who actually did all of the work. This one is for you, mom.
As a child, all I really wanted was to be in her close proximity. Being the youngest child to a stay-at-home mom afforded me some pretty special memories. Even now I can close my eyes & see us dancing around the living room listening to Stevie Wonder sing “Isn’t She Lovely”… Mom was dancing away with a dish towel thrown over her shoulder while I laughed, keeping my eyes on her. I always had my eyes on her.
The first day of kindergarten was the first time I ever remember seeing her cry. She is as unemotional as I am emotional, which caused quite a problem that day. Having spent the first 5 years of my life at home with mom or with a member of our extended family, I literally had never been left with someone I had not known my entire short life. This fact & the tears in my mother’s eyes as she left convinced me that she was not coming back. Certainly she mentioned at some point she would be back shortly or maybe she thought I would relate my school experience to that of my older sister, but it did not happen. I will never forget sitting in that classroom with the salty tears stinging the back of my eyelids thinking, “I can’t believe she left me here, I don’t know these people.” That afternoon my feet barely touched the ground as I threw myself at her. It was the very best feeling in the world- I was safe once again, right where I belonged.
I could write a book on how brave she was as she became our only parent, about how she took care of Pop as his illness progressed while raising 2 little girls & trying to keep our life as normal as possible. I could point out how she never referred to herself as a single parent, or how I found her calmly splitting firewood at some point when she was in her early 40’s. It needed to be done & there was no one else to do it that day so she took care of it herself. She never complained. It was only as an adult that I realized how hard she worked.
I could write about how my sister & I were both athletes & she never once missed an athletic or school function. Basketball, track, cheerleading, cross country… she was always there. There was a state cross country meet that was held during early winter, in the mountains of Arkansas- I literally could not feel my hands or my face & I was actually running. Imagine how cold it must have been standing at that finish line… Mom could tell you because she was there- wrapped in a blanket & cheering me on.
I could write about how Mom somehow managed to convince both Laura & I that we would, in fact, be going to college & we would do so by earning scholarships. Having been a secretary since the autumn after Pop died she was happy to assist with typing papers, but she instilled in us very early that an education was very important & it was our responsibility to make it happen. My sister & I both have Master’s degrees, thanks in large part to our Mother’s determination.
I could write about all of those things, but it would likely embarrass her so I won’t.
So Mom, thank you for doing all the hard work all those years ago, for calling me this morning at 6 a.m. to sing me happy birthday & for the 40 years in between.
I love you more.