My mom had a big birthday on Tuesday. I won’t say which birthday. Instead, I’ll just say she looks great.
Moms don’t age, not really. When I close my eyes and see my mom, she’s in her 30s, her 40s, about the age I am now. I imagine she’ll always look that way to me, and perhaps it will always take me by surprise when I notice evidence to the contrary.
It’s funny, as I age, I find myself growing more and more like her–often, in ways that make me roll my eyes. For example, every time I load my kids into the car to go somewhere–doesn’t matter where it is–I realize I have forgotten something in the house. My coffee, the checkbook, sunscreen–something. I have to run back inside to grab it. Sometimes I do this multiple times.
My mother was always doing this when my little brother and I were growing up. She still does it. One time we were heading out of town for a road trip, and my mom must have run back into the house about 11 times for various items. We finally pulled out of the driveway and started out, only to have her turn the car around and go back home to make sure she’d turned off the coffee pot.
Other times, I will hear her words coming out of my mouth. This often happens when I’m yelling at my kids.
“Whatever it is you’re doing in there, I want you to stop it!”
I hear her when I’m singing to them at bedtime, although my voice is not nearly as nice as hers. My kids’ favorite is the mournful lullaby about the lost little sheep who ran away, “and the poor, little thing cried Mammy.” That song made me sad as a kid, and yet I felt strangely comforted when my mother sang it to me. And now my kids love it, too.
My mom would always tell us stories. She read us books, of course, but I especially loved when she told stories right out of her head. Not original stories, but things like “Jack and the Beanstalk,” or “The Three Bears.” They were vivid and full of detail, and I loved the story she would tell about the little girl named Matilda who stole her friend’s red petticoat, got caught, then got mad and ran away from home. Matilda was forced to return home, but she later received a beautiful package with a big, fluffy bow, “And what do you think was in there?” my mom would ask. “A new red petticoat!” This story was a favorite, perhaps, because of Matilda’s happy ending in spite of being a thieving runaway.
My mom now tells those same stories to my kids. I’ll hear her voice floating out of a darkened bedroom–“This porridge is too hot!”–and everything is as it should be.
My mom ages, but not really. Not for me. I’m a few years from 40, but I’m still her child. Our relationship has changed and matured, yet I still look to her to take care of me.
The difference, though, between now and when I was a kid–now, I can appreciate her.
And I do, Mom. I appreciate you more than you will ever know, and I can’t imagine how I would do this life without you on the sidelines as my biggest cheerleader.
Thank you for always giving me a soft place to land.
Happy birthday, Mom.