The first time my mom and dad had a date, he backed out because the weather was bad. She got into her little yellow Duster and went out with friends.
I love that story. As much as I love the fact that she was always a working mom. As much as I love that she went to Europe, Panama, and Hawaii in her twenties with friends. As much as I love that in her twenties she drove a little yellow Duster with the back end jacked up and a thick black stripe down the side.
Growing up, I never had the idea that I couldn't accomplish whatever I wanted. I never worried that I couldn't be both fabulously successful and be married and have children. And it's really because of her example.
In High School, a counselor told her that she wasn't cut out for being a teacher. Two and a half years after she graduated High School, she graduated from college and got her first teaching job. Thirty-some years later, she's still teaching. She could retire at any time, but she's not ready yet, because she still is what she does-- she's still a teacher and isn't ready to give that up.
I'm incredibly lucky that I had her example to grow up to. She taught me that traveling is important, that I should do all the things I wanted to do before worrying about settling down. She wasn't married until her late twenties, so I always felt like I had time. And that feeling--that getting married wasn't the top priority of your teens and early twenties--allowed me the freedom to do the things that I wanted and to find the person that was really right for me. She taught me that you can have a marriage and a career--that one doesn't need to replace the other. And she taught me that you make your own choices and your own path in life--even if that means driving a little Duster out into the snowy Ohio night.
The problem with all of this is that I took it all to heart-- probably in ways she never expected. I'm probably not the daughter she expected--I'm certainly not the daughter that she is for her parents. She taught me loyalty to family, how important it is, and I've taken that as one of my primary goals to teach my own children. But I've never been able to muster the selflessness that she has for her own parents. I have too big a mouth. I'm far too opinionated.
But I blame her for that.
And as much as I'm sure I've driven her crazy more times than she cares to remember, I thank her for that.
Recently, she told me that there are some posts on this blog that she doesn't read. That she doesn't like it when I talk about my childhood sometimes or how they were as parents. And I feel bad about that, because I never write anything that's meant to hurt her. Even if it does. Everything I write about my childhood and my parents comes after deep and heartfelt thought-- and I hope that eventually she can see that if I disagree or if I make other choices for my own child, it's not because I'm rejecting my childhood. It's because my childhood--her motherhood--has been such that it deserves deep and heartfelt thought. That it serves as a touchstone for everything I do, even if what I do is to do something different.
But my ability to do something different, or to keep things the same, comes from her-- even if she doesn't realize it. She should have been a little less independent if she didn't want a daughter like me. (Although, I realize, that even Frankenstein thought his monster was a good idea at the time.)
She wasn't. And I am who I am today because of that.
So thanks mom.
And happy Mother's Day.