I have always wondered about the thirty-three years of my Mother’s life before I was born. She has known me my whole life, but there is a part of her I will never truly know, which makes her a mystery, a secret I will never be told.
My Mother is the strongest woman I know. She managed to be a single parent without sacrificing success in her career as an educator and never missed a beat in good parenting. She endlessly volunteered for everything at our schools, was never absent from a sports game, a play, an art show, or anything that was important to us. She read every article I wrote for my high school newspaper and put together a portfolio, showing it to all of her friends. I never doubted she was proud of me.
Any key to my Mother’s past, I have gathered from visits over the years to her hometown of San Angelo, Texas. It’s pretty much as small of a town as it sounds and since there isn’t much to do there now, I imagine when my Mother grew up there in the fifties and sixties, she pretty much made her own fun. I can picture her riding her bike through town, learning to water ski, and paying a nickel and a dime to see a movie and get popcorn and soda. Her Father, who died when I was only three years old, was an avid photographer and so I’ve been able to see many pictures of my Mother when she was younger.
There is my Mother with her best friends Cindy and Karen, always a secretive grin on her face. I wonder if she has been this happy since, or if such bliss is reserved for the carefree days of youth when the world demands nothing of us but to live. I love her smile, perfect in its somewhat crooked imperfection because she couldn’t have braces. In these photos my Mother has a natural beauty that she alone gracefully possesses, the rest of the world not as bright.
I love the blouses my Mother wears in these photos. I can look at her in these light pastels in a picture from a spring day, and I know how it would of felt to hug her, how she would of smelled like the perfect combination of the mustiness of her closet and a the horses she loved to ride, and her mother’s perfume. I know the softness I would have felt in her skin. Though these pictures were taken before my existence, they have made me realize that I have loved my Mother since before I was born.
My favorite picture was taken in someone’s backyard. She is with her sister Lisa, holding a bunny rabbit, and she is pregnant with me. Her blouse is yellow and her and her sister are wearing these silly neon visors to shield their faces from the bright Texas sun. I like this picture because of my Mother’s mischievous grin and because of the way she has one hand casually placed on her stomach as if to protect my world, already growing inside of her.
I like how the pictures in the photo albums smell old. The old library book scent of the photos and her old Nancy Drew books (which I often read when I was young), serve as a reminder that my Mother has forged the world, testing the waters to make sure they were safe for us.
My Mother is self-sacrificing; at times she seems endlessly patient. I keep a picture of her on her honeymoon with my Father in my room, behind the glass doors of a keepsake case. I want to keep these photos safe because they are the only pieces I have to unlock the intricate puzzle of her life. I feel my future like thread wrapped tightly around the spool of her past, and I’m afraid to let go of the few glimpses I have into that world.
In the mornings during the summers when I visit home, I go to my Mother’s room and sit with her eating cereal while she reads the paper. This is something we have done for a long time. Often she will take my hand in hers. My Mother’s hands are soft and delicate. She will laugh and say my hands are so small, that she has never seen such small hands. I don’t know if she sees them how they really are, or if she imagines what they were like, but her insistence never fails to make me laugh.
I am like my Mother in many tangible ways. She is the only one of her siblings to move to the city from her small hometown and I moved to New York City from Austin, Texas when I turned 18. She is a writer, too, and like me she plans things in advance and is quite social. My Mother also epitomizes traits that I fall short of. She is patient where I am sometimes short-tempered or difficult. She is laid back where I tend to crave a fast pace. She is a decision maker and I like to consult others, many, many others. She is a stable constant where as I can be moody and unpredictable. But she has taught me to laugh at my imperfections and to recognize and work on them.
Over the years, my Mother has become not only a parent, but also my first call, my therapist, and my best friend. Her advice will is always an unfaltering, perfect mixture of accuracy, honestly, and forgiveness. She will tell me when I’ve acted poorly, but always forgive me, chalking down my mistakes to valuable life experience. Perhaps she has not forgotten being in her twenties.
A few years ago, my Mother endured the difficult task of watching her mother grow old, helping her move into a nursing home, and staying by her side at the end of her life. I can sympathize with how it must feel to watch someone you love so much slip away, but I can’t truly understand yet, what it is like to lose that secret window to your own past. I know that the loss of my Grandmother has created a void in my mother, and I know that in a way, she is always searching for something that is gone, for a part of her that she will never get back.
The truth is that Mothers know their daughters wholly and best, where as we daughters only know a fraction of our Mothers, the fraction that has nurtured and revolved around us. In definition, to be a daughter is a selfish thing. How do we ever begin to understand the sacrifice? We cannot.
Love is measured by simple things. I love hearing my Mom’s voice on the phone and I love seeing her wait by baggage claim when I ride down the escalator at the airport. I love her on summer nights when we sit outside and talk in the thick night air, a gradual breeze and our iced teas the only things to cool us. I will love her through the moment that I lose her, and I will never stop loving her after that. When I am no longer a spec on this planet, I will still be loving my Mother.
When I am old, perhaps I will give the photos of my Mother to my daughter, but likely, she will not understand their significance. She won’t see how my Mother unlocks the secret of me, how in their own way, the photos would solve my mystery for her.
I believe that Mother’s are meant to be secrets to their daughters. They have been here before us, lived a significant lifetime before we were even ideas. They have held us inside, waiting patiently for us to emerge in our full forms, after which their patience seems to never cease. They are our rocks, and we are the streams that erode them, at times pushing them forward, keeping them from resting too long in the muddy banks of the past. We bring a new purpose to their lives; they bring guidance to ours.
Mothers lose pieces of themselves to their daughters and believe these parts to be lost forever, but later we daughters eventually find them within ourselves. People do not say that daughters become their Mothers without reason. This is not only because we take from them, it’s because they give us so much. If we look closely, we can unravel the secrets of our Mothers’ pasts and find ourselves within them. While we are so busy searching for ourselves, the truth is we should be searching for our Mothers. Though we are oblivious to it, our answers are waiting patiently; they are inside the mischievous grin of a naturally beautiful smile, on a breezy summer’s day years before we were born.
|My mom, my choice for the best person to get a drink with.|
|We clean up well :)|
|Going horseback riding...my mom is still good at it, I held on for dear life.|
|Mother's day last year with my brother.|
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe