To those that knew us, it’s no secret that mom and I sometimes had a tumultuous relationship. That didn’t mean we didn’t love each other immensely, though.
Some of my best memories as a kid revolved around the two of us. My earliest was of us traveling in her van from Wisconsin to British Columbia, Canada. Her first two husbands lived there so we would road trip once or twice a year to see gramma in Wisconsin.
In the van was an 8-track player (this was the 70s, after all), and mom would often let me pick the tape to play.
My usual choice was the Jesus Christ Superstar movie soundtrack because I loved singing along to it. Mom always encouraged my singing, so she would tolerate the repetitive plays just to listen to me sing every voice from bass to soprano.
Of course I was too short to reach the player, which was mounted on the ceiling above the rearview mirror, so I would have to crawl on the seats to stick the tape in. This was definitely before the era of mandatory seat belt laws.
Another favorite memory was when I was a teenager, well after we had moved back to the states. We were living across the street from gramma, and for some reason the smoke alarm went off, waking us all up at 3am. It was my 16th birthday and I remember us all sitting outside on the front porch, after the all clear was given, and mom gave me a present of a really pretty burgundy skirt suit. I wore it to school that day. I think I still have it, too, packed away in a box of my childhood memories.
I think it was my junior year of high school, when my mom fell in love with the fashion style of Annie Lennox. So she dyed her hair flaming orange and cut it short – I think she actually looked pretty close to Annie. Well, one day she picked me up after school, dressed in full Annie style, including bright makeup and really funky clothes. The next morning, I was called into the guidance counselor’s office, where she proceeded to give me a lecture about not hanging out with the wrong kind of people, and did my mom know I was letting strange women pick me up after school? It took me a few seconds to figure out that she’d seen me getting into the car the previous afternoon and I started to laugh. The GC thought I was being insolent, so she says, “How about I call your mother in to discuss this?”
Now, anybody who knew my mom, knew that she was anything but a morning person. She’d also gone out partying with friends the night before and didn’t get in until about the time I was leaving for school. So when she got the phone call at around 9am to come in immediately because of me, my mom freaked and, still dressed in her clothes from the day before (bedhead and smeared makeup completed the look), drove to school.
The minute she walked into the office, the GC realized why it was I’d been laughing – that “strange woman” was actually my mom. Oh, the reaming my mom gave that GC. It was priceless.
But what I remember most from my mom was how she encouraged my individuality and fostered in me a desire to always be learning. These traits have served me well in my life.
Mom passed away from cancer in 2005, and everyday, I feel the loss of her presence here on earth. But I do still feel her spirit, both in me and around me. And in that, I try to take some comfort.
Happy Mother’s Day to all my mommy friends out there!
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