Today was my first Mother’s Day. Maren and I spent it by taking a long mid-morning nap together, and then we went into Blair to visit my Mom.
Speaking of my mom.
These pictures were taken right after I arrived on the scene at my wedding. When I came around the corner in all my regalia, my Dad came straight to me, hugged me, and started crying. We bawled. My mom cried, too, but she’s cut of a much stronger cloth than Dad and I are. She did her crying in private, and then came back out radiant and smiling for pictures.
I had a very unique childhood. Even today there are times that I will start talking about something and realize that no one else will have any idea what I’m talking about (Forced Family Fun Day, anyone? Test of Manhood at Christmas? No?). Other people will talk about the way they were raised, or memories they have, and it won’t make any sense to me– wait, you mean your parents told you you couldn’t watch certain things, listen to certain music, or read certain books? What do you mean your parents made you do something/wear something/join something? Are you suggesting that every decision in your life from the time you were able to talk until you moved out of the house wasn’t a round table discussion and decided democratically?
A lot of that can be attributed to the way my parents are. They never really treated us like kids– which was a nice little double edged sword. I wanted so bad to make all my own decisions, and it was fantastic to feel all grown up, right up until I got myself into trouble. Then it wasn’t so great. My parents were always there for advice, but they were also big on ‘you got yourself into this, now you get yourself out.’ And even though that can seem extreme, I think that’s missing a lot in a lot of kids lives. My parents let us climb trees and build forts and ride our bikes across town– sometimes it was dangerous. Sometimes I still can’t believe we didn’t get totally maimed as kids. But guess what? We did all our risk taking when we were kids– when the risk was pretty small. They could have told us– you know– like, NO CLIMBING TREES or NO RIDING YOUR BIKE ACROSS THE HIGHWAY or NO CLIMBING DOWN INTO THE CREEK or NO RIDING ON TOP OF CARS (wait, they might have actually told me that one, but did I listen???), and we probably would have listened to them, maybe. But then when would we have learned about taking risks and making difficult decisions? Probably when we were 16, behind the wheel of a car. Or when we were 18, leaving home for the first time.
A lot of the way we grew up can also be attributed to our situation. I didn’t know this at the time, not really, but as it turns out, we were poor. Like… really. We didn’t have any money. But we didn’t really know that when we were kids. The summer that they had to get rid of TV, we read the entire Little House on the Prairie series, Moby Dick, and started The Once and Future King, all as a family. We would take turns reading to each other. Usually my job was to sit with the dictionary, and look up any words that we didn’t understand or couldn’t pronounce.
And a lot of the way we grew up can be attributed to my parents dreams for us. Some of my earliest memories are sitting in front of a microphone in my Dad’s makeshift studio in the dining room, singing songs that I made up while my brother played back up on his little play guitar. Eventually he moved on to drums, and my sister started playing guitar, and then we had a for real band going on. One Christmas we couldn’t afford gifts, so my Dad brought out all his amps and guitars, we dug out all the french horns (we randomly had three of them lying around), a clarinet, drums, and a set of harmonicas, an eighty year old piano, and played music all day. I can’t remember any Christmas gift I’ve ever gotten, and I’m telling the dead truth. But I remember that Christmas like it was yesterday. My parents wanted us to be rock stars– and actually, my brother is one of the only people I’ve ever met who has made a living as a professional musician. The force is strong with that one.
My mom is really quiet, and really shy. My brother and I have joked that she is ‘silent but deadly,’ because people sometimes write her off like she isn’t paying attention, or has no opinion. But she is, and she does. Boy howdy. She does. I’ve never heard her brag, and she doesn’t talk about herself very much or very well. I don’t write about her much on my blog because I don’t know what she’s comfortable with me sharing; not like she really has anything to hide or anything to be embarrassed about, more like she feels that her memories and dreams are her own, and she doesn’t need to share them with anyone else.
I’ve wondered sometimes if my Mom is a little sad that none of her kids turned out more like her. We’re such a loud, emotional bunch. But the more I interact with my siblings as adults, the more I realize that we are a lot like my Mom.
My brother and I encourage each other very carefully, and express our disapproval to each other very quietly. Even when we can’t look on the bright side of things, we can find a way to joke about the dark side of things. And we are always able to laugh at ourselves and our situation.
We’re resourceful, and we know how to do without. We listen to the words in songs, and wonder what the artist really means. We’d rather read good books and talk about them then do anything else. Everyone is welcome at our table.
When I found out I was carrying a girl, I was really excited. My sisters and I are the only women like us that I’ve ever met, and we owe a lot of that to our Mom. Maren didn’t get to choose me to be her Mom– she’s just stuck with me. But I hope that, if nothing else, I can help Maren understand who she is, and realize that who she is is wonderful. That who she is will change the world.That she doesn’t have to fit into anyone’s silly stupid definition of her, that it isn’t rude to ask questions and want things to be better. I hope that I can teach Maren that she doesn’t need other people to validate her or make her feel special. She is her own light.
Because that’s what my Ma taught me.