Last week I began a letter for my mom, and tonight I finish it. Once again, here I sit, writing in the wee hours of the morning. That seems to be my golden time, when the words fly off my fingers with ease. Pardon me if I ramble; it’s easier to write when I simply close my eyes and start typing.
My mom and I essentially grew up together. She was so young when she had me, a teenager herself, and though she came from a large family, she was thrust into an adult world for which she was somewhat unprepared. All of her older siblings had at least a marginal experience, as many did from that era, tasked with helping to raise up the younger ones Only there was no one for her to help raise up, because she was the baby.
She struggled financially, working a lot of long hours, late into the night, and starting way too early in the morning. She shielded me from as much of that as she could. Maybe she did it a little too well, because I was so oblivious to it that I demanded all the time. I certainly didn’t make it easy for her.
Moms always say, “when you have kids, you’ll understand.” We, being kids, laugh, scoff, or in some other way, dismiss those words as ‘old people talk’. But as cliché as it sounds it really is true. There is a vast difference in perspective that evolves, and changes as you grow into maturity, and then become a mom yourself.
These same things I worry about with my own daughter, I can imagine my mom spent plenty of nights worrying about. Counting dollar bills in the budget, wondering how she was going to stretch a $20 bill for 8 days until payday, when she has to buy food, pay for gas, school lunches, and god forbid a bill come due too soon or one that we forgot about. Wondering “what the hell am I going to do about Christmas?” Or birthdays. Or sick days. Single moms especially, really can’t get sick. Even when I’m sick, or have a migraine, I’m still mom. I still have a responsibility to that genuine angel I somehow have managed to keep alive for almost 11 years.
I believe there was a lot she wished she could have done with me, or done for me. A lot that the money just wasn’t there for. But she kept me fed, clothed, and sheltered me from the brunt of most of it. She performed miracles every day, and I didn’t even know it.
I never thanked her. I have wracked my brain, going over as much of my memory as I can pull, and I can’t think of one time I thanked her beyond a socially expected politeness. ‘Thank you’ for Birthday gifts, cards, a new book.
But not ‘Thank you for being my hero.’ When I did begin to have just the tiniest inkling of what she managed to accomplish all on her own, I still didn’t thank her enough.
Thank you, mama, for reading to me when I was tiny, for introducing me to the magic that only books could provide. For giving that tool to take myself out of my awkwardness, allowing me to disappear and hide from bullies at school.
Thank you for protecting me from the worst that could have happened, often taking the brunt of someone’s drunken anger that could have turned on a small little girl whose mouth was bigger than her brain.
Thank you for swallowing your fear and holding my hand as we faced a terrible decision together, and for telling me that I hadn’t let you down, that night in Atlanta, when I was 17.
Thank you for reading those dozens of letters I wrote to you, sneaking them into your purse so you couldn’t read them until you were at work. I know I ambushed you, but it was the only way I could really communicate back then. It helped me to write, and that writing is what helped me to find my voice.
Thank you for making the drive in the middle of the night to Columbus and staying with me, November 24, 1994. Thank you for allowing me to make that difficult choice myself, and forgiving me for making it.
Thank you for teaching me patience, directly and indirectly, so that I can now explain things to my own daughter, in a way that she can understand with her sharp little mind, as she struggles to navigate the confusing social expectations of this world while growing up.
Thank you for making mistakes. Seeing those also helped me learn how to handle mistakes I make today as a mom.
Thank you for teaching me to stand up to bullies, and to be strong for those who need a little help until they’re strong enough to stand on their own again. You taught me how to be the best advocate I can for my little girl.
Thank you for teaching me tenacity, showing me by example to not give up and to keep putting one foot in front of the other, keeping faith that eventually it’ll all work out. Thank you for trying, and not quitting, or giving up on me.
Thank you for teaching me the way to teach her to be fearless, to chase after every dream she has in her life.
Thank you, Mama. I love you.
Happy Mother’s day