Every time I see a baby or toddler in an uncomfortable itchy lace dress, I am grateful that my mom always let me be comfortable. While she put me in the requisite dresses, tights and Mary Janes for photos and at holidays, she also let me rock a t-shirt with a giant panda on it for the first day of school. To this day, I tease her about forcing me into an Easter bonnet with a massively uncomfortable chin strap when I was probably about seven years old. I thank her for letting me take off my Communion dress less than ten minutes after we got home from church to let me play baseball in the street with my brother and cousin.
I remember as a child, playing hours of games with my mom, countless matches of Rack-O, Memory, Uno and Chinese checkers. I remember laughing until our sides split fast-forwarding the scene in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” when the mother sings that crappy song while doing laundry. I remember my mom making my brother and I absolutely delicious breakfast for dinner, and alongside her many great culinary successes, her entertaining failures. There was the time when she attempted to poach fish for Chris in wine cooler (sort of like wine, but not really … hey, this was the 80s) and foam billowed out of the pan. I remember that microwaves were going to revolutionize convenient dinner-making as we knew it … but the chicken didn’t need to be cooked for an hour. We could have bounced it off the wall and never let her hear the end of it.
Mom and I have always enjoyed shopping together, even when I was younger, and all I wanted to do was wear my brother’s hand-me-downs. While she admits that she couldn’t have handled a prissy girl, I don’t think she asked for a total and utter tomboy who didn’t willingly wear dresses until the 10th grade, either. One of my favorite moments came when she was in a dressing room with me and we were eavesdropping on another mother-daughter pair in the room next to us. The mother and daughter must have not been seeing eye-to-eye about a clothing choice, as the mom yelled, “This isn’t a democracy, it’s a dictatorship!” Mom and I burst into laughter – to this day, it remains one of our favorite quotes and moments. Years later, we realize it is difficult for us to shop with anyone else because we love to make fun of clothes in the store. It’s never quite as funny laughing at a pair of shoes, only to find out that your shopping companion really thinks they’re hot.
My parents worked opposite schedules – my dad was home with us in the morning and mom was home with us after-school, dinnertime and nighttime, for the most part. To this day, I’m not entirely sure if my dad just really believed in mandatory school attendance or he didn’t want to be home with us during his time off (frankly, I don’t blame him either way), but we were almost never allowed to stay home from school. While I credit this to making me a much better worker who has to be at death’s door to take off sick, I remember feeling slighted by senior year that I never got my requisite “cuts” that everyone else was taking. The year was almost over and mom knew I was antsy. Even though she threatened on a daily basis that college would rescind my acceptance, (does anyone know anyone this have ever happened to?) I remember one day that mom chose to make me very happy. It was probably late spring – before I turned 17 and had my full driver’s license. She and my dad were going into the City that day, probably to see a show. She called the school and had me released at 11. I was able to finally enjoy an almost full skip day. Oh, she also let me take off a day at the end of the year to work at my retail job, too. I think she was just tired of arguing with me by then.
My mom is my best friend. The reason it works as well as it does is because she is my parent first and my best friend second. I talk to her every single day, sometimes multiple times a day, and this has always been the case – whether I lived at home or in Georgia. There was only one time in my life that we didn’t get along well, during my senior year of high school. I think this is a hard time for anyone, as I was trying to exert independence at that age and I was mostly just pissing my parents off. My mom was frustrated by the slacker guy I was dating – to the point that she called my brother at school, begging him to come home and knock some sense into me. I was whiny, defiant and difficult – in retrospect, I’m sure I generally sucked to be around. Once I went away to college, everything changed. We both gained the space we needed and I was able to recognize when I needed her for support, advice or just a good figurative smack upside the head.
I couldn’t count the number of times my mom bailed me out of things – an unaffordable phone bill at college, letting me charge a pair of jeans to her my freshman year, paying for groceries when I couldn’t afford decent food. My sophomore year of college, I got the bright idea to try to “touch up” my own hair, since I couldn’t afford highlights at the time. Two days before I was due to attend a formal event with my boyfriend, (photos galore) I turned my hair highlighter yellow. If you’ve ever done something like this, corrective color is not cheap. I called her late at night in hysterics. She called her hairdresser who offered me advice to hold me over until I could get into a hairdresser the next day. My mom then offered to pay to get my hair fixed and never expected a penny back.
My mom is always there to dispense advice, whether I ask for it or not. Although it is always well-intentioned, sometimes it’s not well-received. One example was when she sent me a copy of that oh-so-awesome mid-90’s cult classic book, “The Rules.” Thanks, mom. Nowadays, it tends to be in the form of news clippings and articles from Oprah.com. My mom used to write me letters in college when they didn’t own a computer and people were just beginning to e-mail. I have every single letter or card she ever sent me. My freshman year, I continued to spiral. My grades were total crap and I lacked direction. She wrote me a seven page letter, detailing her hopes and dreams for me (which clearly did not include a 2.3 GPA and hooking up with frat boys). One thing that stood out the most was when she said that she wanted more for me, that she didn’t want me working a “dead-end retail job.” Coincidentally, I happened upon this letter when I was about 24 and I was working in retail. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry at the time.
My mom had major spine surgery the summer after my junior year, which required round-the-clock care. Due to my dad’s work schedule, it made the most sense for me to be home with her during the day and for dad to be home with her at night. The first weeks when she was bedridden, we adopted a fabulous theme of watching movies where people die. I don’t know how I came upon this great idea, but there are many movies that fit it – “Love Story” and “Beaches” were two of our favorites. My dad came home one day to find us sniffling and sobbing in bed – “Enough of the movies where people die!” Once I switched cinematic themes, she did enjoy “Swingers”, though. By the end of the summer, she was well enough to go see The Cure with me at Jones Beach.
Every time my mom and dad take a vacation, my mom would come home, show me photos and recount what I would have enjoyed. Finally, my dad decided that she and I would benefit from a girls’ weekend away – loosely translated, a girls’ weekend equaled an eight-day cruise to Mexico out of California. It was the first and only time that we have spent that much time together, just the two of us, and we had so much fun. I will always remember trying to make towel animals together on the cruise ship (unsuccessfully) and freezing in Cabo during one of the coldest days in its history. The unsuccessful creation of towel animal sculptures reinforced our lack of arts and crafts talents. For as long as I can remember, my mom and I took on a variety of art projects that always looked like they were done by a four-year-old. Yes, I had a Bedazzler.
I look back on 30 years of memories of time spent with my mom. I remember the things we’ve laughed at when they happened and the things we laugh at in retrospect. I think of all the movies we’ve watched, the hours we’ve clocked shopping and the hundreds of thousands of phone conversations we’ve had. I am always grateful for the close relationship we share and know that wouldn’t be possible if she wasn’t exactly the person that she is. I love my mom for her endless patience with me (I know it can’t be easy), her unconditional love and support, her selfless nature and her way of always making me smile. I love the advice she gives me; she can be opinionated but not judgmental.
Mom – I would never be the person I am today without you to learn from. I would never be where I am today without your constant encouragement and help every time I fall. I am so lucky to have you as my mom and cherish all of the time we spend together.
On this Mother’s Day, I thank you.