An Ageless Bond

Standing in the fitting room of a trendy boutique in the West Village today, staring at myself in the mirror in an overpriced $105 cotton blue dress with embellishments, I had an ache in my heart for no one other than my mother.

Considering I’ve been out of grade school for quite some time now, and the whole “back-to-school” shopping trip ceased when I hit college, every Fall, my 20-something self misses spending a few hours at the mall with my mom. She used to set a budget and then let me go at it – jeans, sweaters, leggings, bras, shoes, school supplies, and anything else I needed was up to me to pick out. She’d go around holding up things that she thought would be “cute” and the older I became, the more I went against her suggestions and went with my own.

Maybe some have mothers who want them to wear turtlenecks and long skirts that cover every possible inch of their body, but my mom was never like that. She’s actually one of the best critics – she’ll be honest about how I look and she’s queen of selecting pieces that flatter my body. She never told me to hide my curves, but to dress for them. She should know how to do that after all – she’s the one who gave them to me. While we may disagree on certain picks, I trust her the most on fit, and I value her sweet sentiments over anyone else’s.

Our Girl’s Days Out weren’t limited to pre-September though, it was always our thing to do monthly. Sometimes we’d just go bouncing around to thrift stores, try a new restaurant downtown, and once I became an adult, I started dressing her instead. Since she’s been walking or biking a few miles daily for as long as I can remember, my mom is in great shape and for a 50-something (sorry mom!), I’d say she’s pretty smokin’.

But she doesn’t always think so. And she has to be reminded that wearing tight clothes isn’t out of the question in your middle-age, that being sexy doesn’t disappear because wrinkles appear, and that she deserves new clothes too. After spending a vast majority of her life treating me to special things and taking me on shopping trips, she often forgot herself – but now it’s her time.

She started esthetician school today and I couldn’t be more proud. I waited anxiously by my cell phone for her to get out of class, wondering how her day was and if she liked her classmates. She was nervous about the transition from working to taking a chance on something she’s always been interested in. Accounting is far from waxing and beauty treatments, but with her gentle touch and fiesty entrepreneurial-spirit, I’m confident that with a degree, she’ll be unstoppable.

While I was happy for her bright, new beginning, I was sad that I wasn’t there to share it with her. To treat her to a new outfit to wear to class that flatters her style and the softness she exudes without trying. To split a bottle of wine and chat about what she liked and didn’t, and dream up what kind of salon she would open up. To just see her beaming and brave, being the woman I’ve always known was inside of her, but she was afraid to face.

It’s funny how tables turn and how eventually, we end up parenting out parents a bit. Or maybe they just become our friends because they’ve been befriending us our entire lives. And just like they have to with us or we have to with a childhood friend that can’t come along for our ride, we have to learn how to let them go. How to support their new endeavors that don’t involves us or our day-to-day lives that don’t include one another, or the goals they’re reaching that we can’t quite see. How to stand on our own and let them stand as well.

How to pick out our own clothes with our own money for the brand new job we sought and found, while they start a brand new chapter of their lives by returning to school. How mothers continue to learn just as much as daughters, and how closing your eyes and sending a hug from the big city to the sweet countryside may seem impossible, somewhere, you just know she can feel it, too.

The Love She Needed

She was 24-years-old, just out of a relationship that dragged her down for far too long, and months away from starting flight attendant school when she met him. At some smoky bar in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina, he stood in all white, his top unbuttoned, and her in a black jumpsuit I wish she would have kept from the 80’s so I could wear it now. It was love at first sight in every cliche sense of the saying for him, and she couldn’t have been less turned on.

She thought he was arrogant and a damn Yankee and she didn’t want to go out with him. He pursued her for six months before she finally gave in and four months later, they were married. I guess when you know, you just know – but for my mother, knowing has been a gradual process that’s often sneaked up on her.

Especially when it came time for me to arrive in the world, three weeks early, at 6 pounds, 1 ounce, and the same big blue eyes I have today.

She calls herself the “reluctant mother” -always hesitant of every move she made in fear she would somehow damage me or not live up to the parent she wanted to be. Though she grew up with three little brothers and a big sister, she didn’t develop an interest in having children and she wasn’t a natural around them. At her baby shower, she had no idea what a receiving blanket was and when I was born, her sister and mother stayed with her for over a week to teach her the basics of baby-ing.

Up until I was six months old, she was convinced I didn’t like her and that I preferred my father’s care of hers. But then, at a department store as she was trying on shoes while keeping one hand on my belly, to make sure I was still inhaling and exhaling, I cooed at her. Startled that something was wrong, she quickly looked to see if I was okay, and she said I just smiled up at her with such a sincere love that she realized for the first time that she was a good mother and that her daughter loves her. It isn’t the only time she’s felt my love, but in more ways than one, she says I forever changed her. She needed to have me, to soften, to relax, to stop taking herself as seriously, and to realize perfection isn’t mandatory, especially in parenthood.

And as I’ve grown, I’ve realized that I need her, too.

I’ve tried to put into words dozen of time, through many blog posts, articles, and stories how I feel about my mom. If any love is profound and remarkable, it is the love I feel from my mother: it is one that’s consistent, undeniable, unconditional, and derives from a place so deeply embedded in my soul that I think I’d be lost without her. You would think writing about such a relationship would be an easy task since it is such a simple reliable sort of love – but that’s far from the case.

The bond my mother and I share is undefinable and no amount of sweet sentiments or colorful stories could give it justice. Nor could I fully describe what I see when I look at her or how painful it is to not be able to call her up for lunch or for shopping trips throughout the year.

But what I can say is that this woman, whose beauty radiates from the inside out, is my very best friend. She is the first person I call, no matter if the news is sour or sensational. When I’m upset and need to calm myself down, I silently whisper the same words she would use to soothe me. When I can’t sleep, I scratch my own head, as she would do when I would have trouble resting. When faced with a difficult decision, her advice I take the closest to heart, and while dating, I wonder what my mother would think about the man before becoming seriously invested. I tell her just about everything in my life, even those things she may not want to know the details of.

And while I’m so very thankful that I grew up in a home full of love and laughter, with a mother who sang “She Drives Me Crazy” by The Fine Young Cannibals when cleaning, I look forward to the memories my mother and I have yet to create. Like when I take a special guy home from New York to meet her. Or when I get that dream job and I hear her excitement match mine, as she’s been my greatest fan my entire life. Or when I stand in a room with all of the women I love the most and she helps me into a wedding gown. Or calling her in the middle of the night to ask her questions about my own baby and hearing my child call her “Grand Mommy”, as she’s already decided that’s what she’ll be called. And when I start to age or approach  menopause, I hope I’ll have my mother to answer my questions and assure me to keep my faith strong, stay with my husband even when I’m having crazy mood swings, and to remember how beautiful I am.

Through it all, through all these experiences, and all the years to come, there may be things I worry about and struggles I have to face. I may lose my footing and lose my balance and my heart, and I may switch directions before finding the best route. But while there may choices I make that aren’t the best or men I date that don’t deserve me or pain I face that no one can erase but me – there is one love that will never change.

Maybe that’s why it’s called a mother’s love – it is one of those rare and angelic things that we’ll never quite understand until we’re mothers ourselves. But we do get a taste of it if we’re lucky enough to see ourselves through our mom’s eyes, and if you live your life seeing yourself the way she sees you, you’ll always feel beautiful and if she can see herself through yours, she’ll feel the same.

I love you mom, I can’t wait to see you in a month!

A Sweet Longing

The last week or so, I’ve been feeling a little homesick.

While this may break my mother’s heart (I apologize in advance, Mama), I don’t miss home all that often. I’ve come to find that home is where you make it and who you make it with, so really, right now, my home is inNew York, in the company of my friends, and in the lights of the city.

But nothing really replaces your mom. Or your dad. Or the smellNorth Carolinaeludes with the arrival of summer. Or the quiet that comes from an old country road where the only noise prohibited is the sweet melody of song birds in the morning. And no matter how many years I’m away from NC or how many friends I make or how many roots I try to plant  in the pavement, holidays are tough away from the place you always spent them.

They say the mark of a successful parent is when they raise their child to be a mature, functioning, self-sufficient, and happy adult who can handle life without them. I’d say my parents have achieved this feat and I would think that all great parents want their children to turn into capable adults who create an existence that brings them joy, prosperity, and love, of course – but part of growing up is moving on.

If you’re the product of a very happy home with a supportive, loving family, and a community that encouraged success and bigger things than what sweet littleCarolinacan offer – the process of moving on means letting go of where you were to establish where you are. And it isn’t easy. I love my background but I’m confident my future has just as much possibility, if not more. But making that possibility feel just right is a process in itself.

I do consider myself an adult and I am completely independent of my parents for all of my financial needs and wants. I don’t depend on them for anything more than a daily phone call and to be there should I want to spend an outrageous amount of money flying south for a weekend. But there are times, like when I miss them that I feel like I’m less of an adult.

Maybe it is a misconception on my part to think that longing to see your family makes you more of a child and less of a grown-up, but when you travel away from home, as children should – when do you stop missing where you come from? Or not really where, but who?

I think part of the appeal of a relationship or the desire to one day get married comes from the hunger for a home. Especially if you came from a healthy and happy home – why would you not want to design the same foundation? And maybe we think by finding that sense of security or making plans for the future, we’ll stop missing what we had to leave behind to get to where we wanted to be. Maybe we think that sadness that surprises us from time-to-time will stop coming around. Maybe we think by finding love, the love of our childhood home won’t be something we wish we could capture and carry around with us, should a day ever be nothing but doom-and-gloom.

I’m not there yet, so I can’t argue effectively, but I know that nothing compares to my mother’s embrace or the smell of her perfume that lingers on you after. Or my father’s infectious laugher that burns his face and fills in the lines of his wrinkled cheeks. You can’t capture the same smells of bacon and eggs in the morning paired with instant-coffee, or the sound of the washing machine constantly running while my dog scratches at my bedroom door.

And not being able to see your parents on Easter or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day – because it isn’t sensible to fork over $300 in such a short period of time, just sucks. Or knowing the baby cousins you left will only see you once or twice a year, meaning you won’t watch them grow, is sad. Or that you only get to hug your family for a week at a time, maybe twice or three times a year, hurts.

There really is no place like home, no matter how sweet your new one is.