Today is my mom’s birthday. To celebrate, my husband, children and I are going to Shady Maple, the smorgasbord to end all smorgasbords, because today also happens to be his birthday. Although my mom’s birthday came first, in recent years, that she shares the day with my husband has been to her disadvantage. Understandably, my efforts at birthday celebration have been more toward my husband than my mother. I don’t think she minds. At least, she’d never say she did. But I know she deserves better. I didn’t even send her a card this year. Perhaps this will make up for that.
That’s my mom. The one in front with the glasses doing the splits. Cute, huh? She was in eighth grade at the time. She went on to be a cheerleader in high school. (Thanks, by the way, go out to my Grandma and Grandpa for helping secure this photo and to Julie at the Lee County Council on Aging for scanning and e-mailing it to me. Couldn’t have done it without any of you!)
We used to tease my mom about her cheerleader ways. She’s kinda bubbly, outgoing and enthusiastic about things. She smiles a lot. She never really stopped being a cheerleader.
My mom has always been my biggest encourager. She wanted me to “go for it” whenever possible. When I didn’t make the singing group in middle school, she suggested I try out for the pom squad. When I got cut from the volleyball squad in high school, she went and talked to the coach. She couldn’t change the outcome, but she wanted to try. She cheered me on in softball every summer. Even now, she’ll tell the world when I do something that makes her proud.
And those are just the things I can remember.
What amazes me about my mom, now that I’m a mom, is how she did it. Maybe it’s the way she’s wired. But when she had two kids, she was in her early 20s. Young. Without much money. Working to make ends meet. To her credit, she did have my dad. Some in her situation didn’t have someone to share the struggle with.
Me? I’m in a similar boat, but I’m 10 years older than my mom was. For some reason I think that should make me wiser or more capable of handling the burden that motherhood sometimes is. I don’t think age, in that case, matters.
My friends when I was in school always thought my mom was cool, I think because she was a bit younger than a lot of their parents. When I was in college, she got a tattoo, and I think that upped her cool factor with my college friends.
I didn’t see it so much. It’s hard to think of your mom as cool, sometimes.
I know I’ve underappreciated her through the years. And while I sometimes wish certain things had been different, I can’t change who I had for a mom, nor would I want to.
While wiping down our kitchen table, I think of my mom. Weird, I know. But it’s the sort of thing she did after dinner or before, depending on the condition of the table. Our kitchen table reminds me of the one we had growing up, the one my parents still have. So, when I’m cleaning up the crusted food the 2-year-old has left at her spot, or the crumbs from a snack, I think of my mom.
I think of how we would talk about our day in the kitchen while she made dinner. I would sit on a stool by the counter. She was always interested in my life. And I couldn’t hide anything from her, not even the boys I was interested in. She could see right through me. Maybe because it wasn’t so long ago that she had been there.
I don’t know when it happened, but there came a time when she started sharing about her day. And we could help each other through the rough times. Growing up, she was my best friend.
Now that she’s a Nana to my children, and we live farther away from each other, the relationship has changed. It’s not better or worse, just different. And good, I think.
Since my brother and I left the house, she and my dad have been able to do what they missed while raising us: have a life outside of parenting. Vacations, motorcycle rides, leisure pursuits.
When I became an adult (after college? when I moved out of the house? when I got married?), I didn’t need my mom as much. I had best friends I could call or write or e-mail and tell about my day. They helped me through the burdens and still do. I had a job, a life outside my family. Even now, I don’t talk to my mom more than once a week, usually.
But I miss her, sometimes. And I enjoy the times we get to visit.
And recently I’ve been thinking about how much of who I am is because of who she is and what she did. My parents pushed my brother and I to get an education, to go to college, something else they missed out on because they were raising us. My parents are intelligent, driven, passionate people. They worked hard to make sure that the jobs they had to make ends meet weren’t the end of the road. My mom worked her way up in the school system to a good position in the district office. My dad built himself a successful business. They took out loans so my brother and I could go to college. He’s a teacher. I was a journalist. Other kids in the same family situation might not have been so blessed.
OK, so that’s a really long-winded way to say “Happy birthday, Mom.” I love you. And I’m glad you’re my mom.
I hope you don’t read this at work, or before work, or any other time when you might not want to cry. Hope the picture doesn’t embarrass you. And thanks for being my No. 1 cheerleader.