Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mama Day: PART ONE

My own Mom had a GREAT sense of humor. I snapped a pic of this sign at a cider mill near our house last week. Mom would have thought that was so funny!

My Mom was one of the best. Being a Mom was so natural for her. She got pregnant at 18. She'd always been the "good girl" and she got caught in a dumb mistake. She was mortified, scared and overwhelmed. It was a one-time thing and she had to find this guy and tell him she was pregnant knowing he probably wouldn't believe that the baby could be his. How hard must that have been? She was bombarded with people pushing her to have an abortion. She did think about it, but knew she could never follow through with it. Although teen pregnancy isn't looked highly upon today, it was much worse in the 70s. She'd tell me stories like going to the drive-through at one of our local burger joints at about eight months pregnant and the girl behind the counter handing her food to her looking away and plugging her nose.

Mom and me. 1975.

She carried me to full-term and ended up with eclampsia during labor, convulsing violently during my birth. When the doctor came out to the hallway to notify my grandmother of my arrival he only said, "The baby is fine. Mom is holding her own." Mom was unconscious for days and when she awoke she was temporarily blind, but comforted immediately by her doctor who had fallen asleep in her room with his feet propped up on her bed. She went on to raise me on her own, living in an incredibly small house with her younger brother. She was on welfare my first six months to help her get on her feet. Gifts for my first Christmas were from the local Salvation Army. Soon, she met my Dad (who later adopted me) and they created a life together.

How did she do it? How could she be so mature and handle so many grown-up decisions on her own? I will never know. I don't mean to say that my Mom was perfect. I think we do this sometimes when people pass away. Let's be honest. Mom was a terrible housekeeper. She wouldn't ever say the "F" word, but she could cuss like a sailor and liked to string together as many "bad" words together as she could into their own unique combinations. She didn't like to cook and we grew up eating a lot of TV dinners and boxed macaroni and cheese. I don't really remember her spanking me (but I know it happened), but when I was in trouble she would lecture me until my stomach hurt so bad from the guilt I wanted to throw up.

Mom, Grandma and me. From a scrapbook I made her in 1994.

I don't see all of those things as necessarily negative. They just are part of my history and have molded me into the person I am today. I liked to clean and grew up cleaning the house a lot. I loved experimenting with cooking and trying new recipes. Mom loved that I enjoyed it and always encouraged me. She never missed a choir concert, soccer game or school conference. She would always run into the bathroom if we were sick and hold a cool, wet washcloth on our heads. She wasn't a fan of sarcasm and would never think of speaking badly toward my brother or me. She bought a van when we were in middle school and early high school because she loved driving us around with our friends. We lived in single-wide mobile home in a trailer park and I'm amazed to this day how many of our friends chose our house to hang out. She was honest with me at a young age about my biological father, but was always respectful about him. She sent care packages to my friends going to college on the East coast whose families weren't as supportive. She loved my brother and I so much and we were her proudest accomplishments. Her office was always plastered with pictures of us and I know her past co-workers know more about me and my brother than they'd ever want to know.

Another scrapbook page. Yes, I used colored pencil to tint her shirt and give her makeup. I liked that quote because we missed each other so much when I was away at college. How profound it is today.

I have 32 years of memories. 32 years of learning - whether as a specific lesson or just by her actions. I look at my own daughter and pray I serve her well as her mother. I have read, and firmly believe, our same-sex parent is the most influential person in our life. This is definitely true for me. My Mom was so good about telling us she loved us - from when we were tiny to adulthood. That is something Bill and I have talked about and we do with Elyse. We have promised each other we will tell her even when she might find it embarassing or as an adult and think it is uncomfortable. It is important. And no matter what happens, I will always know my Mom loved me. Her death cannot change that. Of course, much of this is because of all the things she did for me. But, it is also always because she told me. Often. I want Elyse to feel the same way. We aren't going to be perfect parents. But, no doubt. That girl will be loved.

Mom, Sue and me. Tolmie State Park - 1992.

It is my first Mother's Day as a parent myself. It is also the first in several years where I don't have to focus on being sad about the loss of my own mother. Bill and I are going to celebrate together on our own today with Elyse - just our precious little family. Today I will be thankful for the Mom that was there for me and the Mom I can now be for my own daughter. Happy Mother's Day. Kiss your babies (young and old). Tell them you love them. Say it. Often. You won't regret it.

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