One of my best memories of my childhood was a day when my mom showed up at school out of the blue to take me to a movie. I had a tough time in school–trying to figure out where I belonged–not really fitting into any clique. I was a sad kid. Mom and I didn’t get along well at all. We fought a lot. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized why she was so hard on me.
She’d married young and did what the world said she should. She quit college and got married and had two kids by 23. She never got to know herself. She wasn’t maternal at all. There were no hugs and kisses. No “I love yous”. There was just clothes on the back, food on the table.
She came to my speech tournaments, my plays, my band concerts. Dad was almost always too busy. She showed up because that’s what moms do. When I went to state and won, she cried. But, she never said “good job.” She just showed up and followed me around from speech to speech listening to it over and over again. But, she’d make sure to tell me not to get too comfortable. Life isn’t as easy as speech or drama. It’s hard. One success means nothing. It’s a constant battle.
She was always torn between teaching me to be a proper lady and teaching me to do more. I’d have to help her clean while my dad and brother watched tv, but she’d also tell me things like, “it’s a man’s world” and “you don’t need to learn to cook. It’s not a priority.”
I learned a great deal from her, but my realizations didn’t come until much later in life. I spent years hating her for pushing me and then discouraging me and then pushing me again. She’d make me feel terrible and then send me flowers at school with a note that said “I love you”. She just couldn’t say it to my face.
But the day she showed up at school to just take me to a movie meant she’d blown off her job–which she never did, told me she cared, understood, and loved me even though she could never just say the words. She’s a contradiction, my mom….but I learned more about everything by seeing her struggle between being who she was expected to be and being who she wanted to be. She’s finally who she wants to be….
And I’m going to get to where she is 20 years faster than she did.
I’d never share these things I write about her with her because she’d just be embarrassed, but my mother, with all her faults and struggles, has made me who I am.
I still remember that one day. And it was only one, but it was the beginning.