Thursday, July 25, 2013

Filling Her Shoes

It is interesting to me... the things that you remember from childhood and can isolate above other memories.  For example, I remember a number of things about my mom, but there is something that, whenever summer rolls around, sticks out in my head from time to time.

Her feet.

(I know... bear with me.  I don't like feet anymore than the next gal...)

Growing up down south, the growing season was easily April through October and, from the first buds on the trees, my mom was preparing her garden and flowers.  As soon as the weather was warm enough, she traded her sneakers for flipflops and, outside of church, that was pretty much her footwear of the next few months.  Insert southern joke here, but we didn't always wear shoes and hence the memory of feet.

My mom is Cherokee and in addition to the telltale dark hair and eyes, she has a year round glow to her skin.  (My pasty white Irishness might be a tad bit jealous...)  In summer, she would bronze. Except for the straps of her flipflops...  On her feet, there would be a "V" shaped tan line.  Similar to the tan lines on my feet these days.  (I come by my love of flipflops honestly...)

My feet aren't dirty... that's my "tan"
When I look at examples of motherhood and mothers to aspire to, my own mom is top of the list.  That's not to say she was perfect- she'll tell you she wasn't, but really, who among us is?  Which person- parent or not- among us would look at every choice and not have a few (or a lot) they wish they could call "Do Over!" and have a second shot?  But she was a good mom; she still is a good mom.

I'm fortunate in that; we don't have the type of relationship where we talk on the phone or email every day, although we both know that if we needed to talk to the other with that frequency, we could.  We also don't have the type of relationship where one of us needs to BS the other.  We say what we need to say and go on from there; my teenage years had enough of the BS to fill the rest of our lives, I think, so thankfully in adulthood, we can cut through that.  There's no judgment or angst; I can talk to her about anything, tell her anything, and know it will be alright.  She may not always agree with me, but she supports me and, looking back, that's something I can clearly point to in my life: that support.  I never grew up believing I couldn't do something; we were poor and things weren't easy, but my parents, both of them, told my brother and I (and believed it, too) that we could do anything, be anything, as long as we were willing to work hard enough towards the goal and that they would support us and stand behind us.  It didn't mean that we didn't make mistakes (we did) or that they wouldn't pick up the pieces when those mistakes happened (they did) or that they wouldn't punish us if we did something wrong (oh, they did), but they had our backs.  They believed in us.

This morning, I went for a run with my "niece".  She is the daughter of Bobby's godmother/Maya's godfather, a lovely 15 year old HS sophomore.  (She kicked my butt during the run and she wasn't even huffing it like I was... man, I felt old...  Even taking into account the c/s recovery!).  While she was a good block ahead of me, it dawned on me that I'm only slightly older than the age difference between my mom and I.  And it brought back memories of talking long walks and hikes with my mom when I was an older child and teenager (there's only 16 years between us). Our talks, our shared interests.  When I got home and I was nursing Michael, I remembered watching my mom nursing my little brother.  As I made breakfast for Bobby and Maya, I remembered when she would get our breakfasts ready before school... when she was my girl scout troop leader... when she videoed our school programs and drove my soccer team to games and came out to all of my choir concerts, regardless of whatever else she had to do.

I'm reminded of my mom, who somehow managed to be a full time stay at home mom and full time worker in my dad's shop.  Of how she brought files home with her so she could keep up with accounting and taxes... how she would silk screen items on our kitchen table, late at night, after we were in bed...  How, one night as she worked well into the wee morning of the hours to make enough money to buy Christmas presents for us, she made time for a little girl who woke up with a nightmare and couldn't fall back to sleep, how she made hot chocolate on the stove (instant hot cocoa in the microwave? who ever would have thought...) and sat down under the kitchen table with me until I was awake enough that the bad dream was a faint memory and tired enough that she could put me back to bed.

Of the mom who took care of us when we were sick.  Who paced the living room floor with teething babies and toddlers.  Who, when I got chicken pox in 8th grade and was MISERABLE, ground down oatmeal in the food processer and ran me oatmeal and tea baths, who made a makeshift bed out in the backyard so that I could rest in the sunshine, who cut up strawberries in Breyer's mint ice cream (a splurge because I couldn't really eat a lot of things and ice cream was soothing).  Of the mom who held my hair back when I puked and rubbed my back, telling me it was going to be okay.

Of the mom who wore a sleek, grey dress at my wedding and stood next to me in the receiving line, making me laugh... who hugs me so tightly that I still feel it when I walk away towards a departing flight... who makes me feel like, even when I'm away from home that I'm never really that far.... Of the mom who has the connections to get us a Guinness at the bar at 11am, even when they are closed.  Of the mom who laughs with me, cries with me, and everything in-between.

And of those feet. 

Of the shoes they fill and of how I hope I will be able to fill the ones that I've been given to wear as well as she wears hers. 

I'm convinced that good people happen either because we have good role models that we can emulate or because we have ones that are so awful we swear we will never be like them.  While all of us have said the whole "I'll never do it that way" and say we'll do things differently than when we were kids, I look at the world around me (and some of the news reports) and I feel so damn lucky.  I look at my friends who have lost their moms (and their dads) and I feel incredibly grateful.  Not only do I still have my parents living, I have a good relationship with all three of them (I'm lucky to have gotten a great stepdad as well) and I have examples of the type of parent I want to be. 

Looking at my feet, with their tan line, I think I might just do an okay job of it after all.


quadmom said...

Love this post!!

Amelia said...

I love this so, so, much.