My Mom

I’m sure she remembers it, as well, but one of my earliest memories is of my mom lifting me up and putting me in the child seat attached to her bicycle. That thing terrified me, as I never felt super stable in it. When I look back on it now, I see a mom in her early 30s who just wanted to get out and enjoy the air, maybe get a little exercise and have her kids with her while she did it. My brother rode alongside on his own bike.

There are other things I could tell you stories about, but sometimes I don’t know what’s really a true memory, or whether I’ve just heard the story so many times that it feels as though I remember it.

I remember my mom taking me to Merle Norman for my first few items of makeup, and her taking me a couple years before that to get my ears pierced (which I’m told I backed out of a few times before I was finally ready to do it).

I remember her taking a cake decorating class when I was in elementary school, and subsequently copying her as she practiced making roses out of frosting. They were tricky, but with a little patience, they could be quite beautiful.

When I was 12 or so, I remember sleeping later than usual one morning and, upon waking, wondering why she hadn’t come into my room yet to tell me to get up and moving. I remember walking into the living room where I found her quietly cleaning every surface — perhaps because it needed it, but more likely to pass the time and participate in an activity that was cathartic, and which allowed for quiet thoughts and the contemplation of loss. The day was warm, and I remember the windows were open. There was a stillness in the air, and my grandfather had just passed away a few hours earlier. To this day, if the air is too still, the light is a certain way and the temperature is just so, I feel unsettled, uneasy. It might be why I prefer rainy, cold days.

She roadtripped with me when I made my first drive to Michigan State, and I’ll never be able to hear any reference to “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'” without remembering our neverending haul though eastern Colorado and Kansas. It’s a long, flat stretch, and we sang that song whenever we passed a field.

There are a lot of fields along I-70.

A lot.

I’m pretty sure it’s one, giant field, in fact.

I could tell you about how she took a second job and worked nights to save up money for a family vacation when I was little. I could tell you about how she slaved away at the sewing machine to make my dream dress for a winter formal dance, then barely batted an eye when — after it was finished — I decided I wanted to buy one after all. (I’m still sorry about that.)

I could tell you about how she carted me to and from piano lessons every day for years, when I’m sure she wouldn’t have minded a little quiet time to herself, or a little more money in the bank account since money was tight with a mortgage, family cars, school, pets and the trappings of life.

I could tell you about how she was a good sport and dutifully loaded up the kids, the dogs, the dogfood and all the foodstuffs as we set off on family camping trips a couple times a year with trailer in tow. I could tell you how she was an even better sport when we’d overheat along the highway in the same spot, trip after trip.

I could tell you that she’s an only child and that I’ve never really thought about what that must be like for her, but I’ve thought about it a lot this year. This year is the one that has seen my grandparents’ health on the decline, while their dementia incidents are on the rise. I wish she had a sibling to help her shoulder the burden, because even though all moms have a lot on their plates every day of their lives, I wish she could enjoy the years that she’s in instead of still taking care of people. Not me, not my brother — but her parents, who are perhaps far more needy at this stage in life than any child ever was. I am in awe of her strength on a daily basis. I imagine she’s laughing at this right now and thinking, “What strength?” But she has a ton of it.

I could tell you that when I started my current job, I was overly cautious about sending and receiving personal emails from my email account since I’ve never signed more paperwork about a company’s computer policies. But having the year that she’s had, and knowing how sitting in a corner of a room and hammering out an email as a form of grandparental stress relief can provide a much needed release, I will now tell you that I don’t care how many emails I get…I save them all. The long, the short — all of them. It sounds a bit morbid, but holding onto them is holding on my mom, and none of us will be here forever.

Tonight I am thankful for my mom, my best friend and for all of her patience, wisdom, guidance and direction she’s given to me. I know I’ve given her a number of gray hairs in return, but that’s what we kids do best.

Love you, mom.

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