I was raised by an incredible woman.
My relationship with my mom has come a long way. It's true that becoming a parent has a way of putting everything into perspective!
I spent my last years at home so frustrated at having to move across the country again; so discontent, and just so ready to get out on my own. I missed a lot of opportunities to enjoy being mothered. To have a mom at my side 24/7...it was the life and I didn't even know it.
With this year's project I've undertaken-catching up and keeping up with memories-I have been thinking a lot about what my son will remember about me. I'm excited that he'll get to read all these stories I'm carefully telling in my albums! But the real memories, the life lessons, I wonder what he'll take with him.
Like any young mom, I'm sure that mine had a million things she set out to teach us. I'm also sure that she wonders often (with 2 "grown ups", and 2 still at home) how much we really learned. I don't know if I got every lesson she taught, but here's some things she might not know I remember.
This is for you, Momma.
When I was a toddler, and dad worked the night shift, every night you'd pack his lunch (in that red and white Igloo cooler) before saying goodbye at the kitchen steps. Now I do the same (some days) up for my husband, who thanks me profusely and treats getting a sack lunch like it is a huge deal. I wonder if Dad felt the same, and if that's why you did it? I wonder if you knew how much the little things meant?
I remember going grocery shopping and being so excited to pick out a Kids Cuisine tv dinner. You'd get one, too (I remember it was usually a Smart Ones brand) and we'd eat them in the living room when we got home. I wonder if you even remember doing that or know how special it made me feel?
My first memory of having a prayer answered was when I had found this pink and frilly leotard in the JCPenney catalog. It had the tutu attached, and looked just like a "real" ballerina! I prayed--begged--the Lord to let me have it. Just a few days later, we went to JCPenney to pick up a phone order (like she frequently did). It was in one of the packages when we got home! Now, I may have asked for it. I don't know. But I do distinctly remember the feeling that God had given it directly to me! You made that happen.
I remember staying up late the Saturday nights before Christmas, making chocolate-dipped everythings, banana bread, and all kinds of other treats. We'd wrap them in green and red Saran wrap and curling ribbon and load them in huge bags to pass out at church. Sunday school teachers, choir directors, random people walking by...it made you so happy to give those away! There was never a Christmas we didn't do that. But it wasn't just Christmas! You gave people cards with messages that filled every single inch, even the back. You would make construction paper cards for Dad and me with silly but sweet little drawings. We made and delivered gift baskets on at least several occasions.
Every one who's ever known you has adored you! You are just that generous and over-the-too kind. I'm aspiring to be at your level!
I remember your perfectionism. And sometimes it was a good thing! Other times you stressed yourself out so much and were ridiculously hard on yourself when you "failed." Just to let you know, Mom, I'm picturing our house on Mountain Village Court right now. The stone fireplace, the lime green carpet, the wallpapered-everywhere because #nineties...the background to so many memories for me. In all of them, the house is spotless. Not a thing is out of place! You eventually had 3 kids in that house, I very seriously doubt that even you could prevent 100% of messes. I'm just saying that I can't remember it being messy at all. So while I often heard the phrase, "This place is a wreck!", it's just not the type of thing kids remember. (Hashtag note to self)
I remember when Kimmy was born and I remember you going through what we both know now as postpartum depression. I remember you seeming different. But I don't remember feeling any less loved, any less taken care of, or any less important. You were still an amazing mom, even when you were at your worst. Having been through the same with just one child, I have no idea how you did it with two. No idea. I'm glad that you did, though.
I remember all the thought and care that you put into your 4 & 5 year old Sunday school class, and later on, to the youth group that Dad lead. I bet that you made those kids feel so loved and so special! I bet a lot of them remember you, and I bet that you had an impact of some kind on their lives. The work you did was important.
I remember when Dad told you he was going back to college...when he started taking preaching opportunities all over the country. I feel like you, with a newborn and a loud/obnoxious 5 year old (that was me, hi 👋🏻), would've had every right to say no or to be selfish. But you weren't! All I can ever remember is your complete support. If you ever fought about it...we kids sure didn't know.
I remember when we moved thousands of miles from home. From just outside Atlanta to a smallish town in Texas; from your huge support group to a church with only a handful of members. I'm sitting here trying to picture you complaining or angry...but I can't! You made everything seem like an adventure. I can't imagine completely changing course 12 years into your marriage...suddenly having a position you never pictured for yourself. But you thrived as a Pastor's wife, and were adored by everyone in the congregation. You made the best of life. I'm sure you might have felt like you were just surviving...but it doesn't feel that way to me.
Then there was that distinct point in our lives where everything changed. Where we were thrown into absolute chaos, and your world was shaken to the core. Nothing could've prepared you for the path you had to go down, and no one on earth walked it with you-or could even show you how.
For me, there was so much confusion. There was hurt and there were consequences that you never could've protected me from. I reacted to that pain in ways that I'm sure made it harder for you. In some ways I had to step up to the plate; and these were character-building situations I needed for adulthood! But at the time, I know I resented them. I took so much out on you unnecessarily.
And how did you react?
With hate or counter-resentment? With belittling insults or abuse? No. Those reactions are for the ordinary and for the weak.
You, Mom, reacted in love. In kindness. You lived a life that you did not choose, and you lived it alone, with sometimes everything working against you. And all you ever had for your children was love. I know some of the things I said and did broke your heart, but you still surrounded me with compassion.
In my mind, I see it as a hurricane. The waters were tempestuous and the wind was raging against you with such force that everything around you had been destroyed; but you did not lose your grip. You had your arms wrapped around your children, clinging to them for dear life, and you were not letting go for anything...even when they were trying to break free.
There are several times I've felt that you and I had a connection that no one else could. The first being when I was 15, the night I came into the kitchen and told you I was dropping out of high school. I had plenty of logical arguments and was prepared to be yelled at, ridiculed, and fought. But you did none of those things. You recognized my hurt, my desperation, and you responded with a simple, "Okay." We hugged and cried, and I took down all my defenses for the first time in way too long. That's exactly what I needed from you! I just needed you to understand. I just needed your unwavering love.
Then there was the week I became a mother. Nothing prepares you for any of it. The fact that his delivery was an emergency situation, that I came so close to death's door and got yanked back...it just added to the overwhelm. I remember talking with you and Grammy, tearing up trying to describe what I was feeling. You put your hand on my cheek and said, "I know." (And we both cried and cried.) I needed you more than I ever had, and I'm so glad you were there.
The last time was when Abbott was about a month old, and I had been married for a little over a year. Things had been awkward between all of us since I left home. I still had a wrong attitude about growing up in general; and there was just something lacking in our relationship. We had too many barriers in between us.
Everyone was sitting around talking after dinner and, as it tends to do, the conversation shifted from silly to serious. I don't remember what all was said, but what had the most impact was when you said this: "I want you to know that I've always loved you, and I've never loved you any less. But I need you to know that I was hurt. And that I forgive you." With those very simple-but so hard to say-words, you taught me more than I can ever explain. You put my whole life into a new perspective. All at once I felt regret, so deeply, for all the years I resented you. For the relationship we could've enjoyed while I was at home, but didn't. For the things I've said and done that broke your heart but didn't break you. And all at once, I realized how much you loved me. How strong you must've been to never show me that you hurt; to finally have the courage to say it now. And how powerful your love is-that it could forgive so many unforgivable things.
Our relationship now is better than ever. We're honest, and understanding, and we don't have any barriers in between us. I trust her, love her, look up to her like no one else. I'm jealous of my siblings still at home!
I was raised by an incredible woman.
She rarely, if ever, complained. She defended and refused to talk ill of certain people, even when it was expected. She gave of herself to anyone who needed her, and never seemed to mind. If she ever doubted God, she never let us know! She stayed faithful when it seemed impossible. She was funny, and she made life fun for us. Yes, I watched her make mistakes. I've seen her completely fall apart too many to count! But not once did I see her stay broken. She always put the pieces back together, always kept fighting, always kept moving forward. She protected us from more than we will ever understand. She is a rockstar, a superhero, a perfect 10, all of the above. She loved us, and she loved us well.
You are blessed, Momma. Many have done virtuously, but you exceed them all.
That time in my life that felt like a hurricane, I thought I was alone. I was keeping my own head above water, struggling to survive. But really, it was my Mom holding me up.