To My Mom: mother of five, grandmother to 16, nurse, wife, Sarah Lawrence graduate, back-rubber, story-teller, and forever-confidant of mine.
Thank you for teaching me to read, for sitting in the corner of our Glen Rock, NJ living room with the floor to ceiling shelves of books behind our backs. Thank you for encouraging me to open the old leather-bound copies, smelling them with me and showing me how to gently turn the nearly transparent pages. Thank you for making the library a dependable part of our lives, and for never groaning over my endlessly lost and late books. When I see my own children stumbling through difficult words, reading street signs and snuggling in for a night time book, you’re here with us.
Thank you for taking grief from the neighbors as a response to my early morning driveway Karaoke shows. To me, they were dress rehearsals for Broadway and you knew it. As I watch my girls swirling around our living room, singing their most passionate renditions of the score of Frozen, I am brought back to my childhood. This summer, we will immerse ourselves in all things ‘Annie”. I smile in preparation for the dozens of times I am sure to hear the off-key, slightly squeaky renditions of ‘Tomorrow.’ I will clap and smile and praise their enthusiasm, just as you did.
Thank you for that summer when we studied South America together. Although I proclaimed country-memorization “dumb”, I cherished this time. I felt so smart, so adult, to be drawing my own map and learning with you. You found a Peruvian cookbook in the library and we made “dreams” together. Do you remember? Slightly greasy, puff pastries coated in confectioners’ sugar. We ate ourselves sick, until we couldn’t look at them anymore. It was bliss.
Thank you for giving me the freedom to express myself in high school. When I came home with a shaved head, you didn’t get mad. Mint green bangs? No problem. Tacky vintage clothes from Antique Boutique in SoHo? You bought them for me. Trucker jackets, feminist slogan t-shirts, anti-fur breadbox signs and leaflets passed out at Barnes and Noble. You supported it all, even if you didn’t always agree.
Speaking of teenage angst, thank you for always thinking my poetry was cool.
Thank you for allowing me to be the only vegetarian who didn’t eat vegetables.
Thank you for not making me clean my room very often. I was lucky that you let me keep it in a pigsty and only sporadically went on a rage-filled cleaning rant. I’m not so stellar at taking a step back from the mess in my own children’s rooms. But I’m trying. (Can you imagine this about the girl who once couldn’t find her hamster cage?)
I’m sorry that I dated that guy. You know the one. He was not kind to me. My relationship with him put a colossal wedge between me and the rest of the family. That time was precious and I just didn’t get it. When you told me, simply, that I deserve better, I should have listened.
Thank you for listening to my worries as a mom. Knowing that you are there, giving me all of your attention is everything to me. Sometimes I think about how you raised us kids and didn’t have your own mom to cry to. That wasn’t fair. But it’s made you realize how important you are in your children’s lives. And just because I don’t have to ask permission for a later curfew doesn’t mean I need you any less. More so, in fact.
I have always been and can always be myself with you. For a mom, whose identity can sometimes feel swept away quicker than the breakfast crumbs, this is huge. Top notch, really.
Thank you for encouraging me to write. To explore this passion of mine, slowly but surely. I can and I will. Because of you.
Mom, you are home to me, no matter how many miles are between us and no matter how many gray hairs spring electrically from my head. As you did, and as your mother did, I will embrace the gray and embrace the life that comes with them.