Sunday, May 10, 2015
The first other mom to impact me is Angela. Her daughter and I became friends the first day of first grade. I loved to visit their home, and wanted to live my friend's life. Angela and her husband joked around with each other. Angela laughed with us when we were being silly little girls. In fact, she would often encourage the silliness to continue. I spent many nights in this home, most of them now just a blur in my memories of childhood; but there are a chosen few memories that will remain as clear as the day they happened.
I was in third grade when my mother had surgery, and I stayed with them for a few (school) nights. Out of the blue one night I got scared that something bad was going to happen to my mom and I started crying. My friend tried everything her 9 year old mind knew to do, but in the end said "I'm going to get mom."
Angela sat in the bed with me and held me and let me cry. I remember her holding me, stroking my hair, comforting me and encouraging me that everything was going to be OK. To Angela it was a small gesture. She never knew that I felt something in her arms that I couldn't explain, that in that moment I felt love that I never felt at home. My friend had no idea how lucky I thought she was to have such an amazing mom, and how much I envied her home life.
My teen years brought two more moms into my life. Tess's mom was unlike any woman I ever met. She had a commanding appearance and an even more commanding personality. She cursed when she was angry and drank wine in front of her kids; two attributes that my own mother frowned upon greatly. Tess's mother had traveled a lot and told us often of her adventures. I liked being around her, I thought she was beautiful, intimidating, and fascinating.
Tess told me often how much she loved her mother. Sure, they fought, and I happened to be in the room a couple of times when they did. Their arguments were loud, explosive, and always on point. Neither Tess nor her mom turned an argument about a topic into an assassination of each other's character. And at the end of the heated debate, they always confirmed their love for each other.
Tess and her mom were the ones who saved my life as a 17 year old. It was the end of May and I was living with my dad (because mom had kicked me out) 50 miles away. I had come to the city to visit mom and friends, and was in a deep, deep depression. Tess knew it, and I'm sure she shared it with her mom. But neither of them knew I had a plan. A plan to end my pain.
My last stop before heading the 50 miles back home was Tess's house, and my plan was already in action. Tess and her mother recognized that I was suddenly calm in the midst of my mental storm. Tess's mom had Tess search my car, where she found the empty pill and alcohol bottles. Tess and her mom hid my keys and called EMS.
Things became blurry as the pills started taking effect, but I remember Tess's mom acting as my mom on the ER check in. And then I remember the argument she had with my mother when mom got there. My mother was indignant that Tess's mom dared step in and call EMS because this was a family matter, that she should have been notified and allowed to decide what to do. As I lay on the stretcher semi-conscious being treated for narcotic and anti-coagulant overdose, Tess's mom pointed out the flaw in my mother's logic, defended her actions, and finally leaned over to me and told me she would do it all again to save my life.
Tracy's mom was also there for me a great deal in my high school years. Also a single mom, she opened her home to me when I needed it. You see, I knew mom wouldn't hesitate to kick me out, even though I was a minor. So when things got tense I would leave, hoping things would calm down and I wouldn't have to leave for good. In reality, I was hoping my mom would miss me, but that never happened.
Tracy's mom made my prom dress for me. I have no idea how hard that was to do, she didn't have a pattern, only my drawing on a piece of notebook paper. But she did it, never complained (to me at least) and I was able to go to prom with a one-of-a-kind dress for less than $50 in material.
Things have been a little bit different in my adult life. I have been blessed to watch several amazing moms in action. Pat, who has taught me how to come through trials with love. Jennifer, who exemplifies that love is a multiplying factor not a divisor. Mary, who taught me that only death is fatal. These are just three of the amazing moms I know.
And while I wasn't actually looking for a mother figure, one found me; Barb. Although she started out as my boss, her title morphed into "mother" over time. She wasn't just mother to me, though, but to everyone in her charge. She encouraged us, pushed us to do more at times, and then put us under her wing to protect us when needed. However unprofessional it may be, she filled a void in my life. She became a confidante, she advised me on personal issues with my children, and allowed me to cry on her shoulder. And while my own mother was still alive but absent from our lives, she stepped up to be a grandmother to my sons.
It would be easy to say that my mom failed me. But here's the thing, I saw all of these other moms fail too. None of the moms I've honored here are perfect. They all fought with their children, got frustrated or angry at some point, and probably said things they regretted from time to time. But the one thing I know, they love their children, and they also loved me in some way.
The hardest part of looking back at my childhood is seeing in how many ways I have become like my mother. But thanks to the love I experienced and the lessons I learned from these other moms, I know I am better at this mother thing than my mom was. And that is her loss, because being a mom, and now a grandma, is a super awesome experience.
Happy Mother's Day to all you moms. Your circle of influence is greater than you know.