Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Beauty of My Mother.

The following post is a part of my dear friend, August McLaughlin's "Beauty of a Woman BlogFest." Click the link on or after February 10 to read many inspiring posts on the topic, as well as for a chance to win a bevy of lovely prizes including a Kindle Touch! Thanks to August for presenting an opportunity to tell my mom (again) how I feel about her.

I’ve always looked up to my mother.

Sure, when I was little, I *had* to look up to her, since she was physically so much taller. These days, our height difference is only a matter of a few inches, but I still hold her in high esteem.

Here’s why.

When I was a little girl, I was fortunate enough to have my mom with me nearly all the time. She was able to stay home with me, playing games, singing songs, and all manner of other childhood pursuits. She was at every school play, never missed a band or orchestra concert, and drove me to all of my horse shows without a single complaint. In fact, we often had as much fun getting to a destination as we did when we arrived. I’d read aloud to her, or we’d sing along with our cassette tape of the complete Broadway cast recording of “The Phantom of the Opera.”

As I grew older, I made the conscious decision not to be a “difficult teenager.” I resolved to try my best to get along with my parents through high school. I had a tough academic schedule and lots of after school activities; in my mind, there was no room left for family drama. I realize now how wise my decision was.

When I was sixteen years old, my father died suddenly of a particularly aggressive form of leukemia. My sister and brother were long grown and out of the house, so that left my mom and I rattling around our four bedroom house on our own. We cried, clung to each other, and went to therapy together for months. While I can’t remember a lot of joy in that time, I am definitely glad that neither of us had to go through it alone. We had each other, no matter how much life otherwise sucked on that particular day. Living through that long, deep valley grew each of us as individuals, but also our relationship as mother and daughter. This was the turning point for us to start becoming friends.

A strange side effect of my father’s sudden passing was my ability to see my mother grow as a person through that time and beyond. While she was always an exemplary mother, watching her find her way on her own gave me a whole new respect for her. She learned more of who she was, what she wanted in her life, and what she wanted to become. She got a job, and then, upon reflection, decided they were not treating her how she should be treated, so she went and found a better job where they respected her as an equal of their other employees. Through her journey, I saw my mother insist upon what she deserved from others, no longer content to fly below the radar and not make waves. She didn’t need to be the constant peacemaker and people-pleaser anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, my mom is an excellent hostess, and everyone I’ve ever brought home immediately felt welcomed. Most of my good friends in high school thought of her as their second mother. But now she had a little more backbone to go with the beautifully compassionate heart she’d always had, but that some people had seen as a way to take advantage of her generosity. In short, my mother had learned the value of saying “no.”

It was tough going away to college. I picked a school that was about 1,000 miles away from home, not because of its sheer distance from my hometown, but because when I visited campus, my heart immediately told me I’d found where I wanted to be. The biggest drawback was that I would be so far from home. I didn’t realize how much that would make me sad until the day my mom dropped me off. I was okay until I had to go to my first class. I had said my goodbyes and was walking away, and I could tell my mom was crying. Of course, that set me off, too. Thank goodness for e-mail.

I admire my mom’s sense of restraint when I was facing the sharp learning curve of being on my own. While I wasn’t the type to go to fraternity parties, well, ever, I did fall in with a lousy boyfriend for a few months my freshman year. While she surely saw what a jerk he was, she didn’t say a word about it, but let me come to my own decision. Putting myself in her shoes at the time, I don’t know if I would have had that much strength to keep my mouth shut. But, I realize that I might not have taken that too well at the time. While I regret the relationship, I did learn a lot from the experience, and in part, I have my mom to thank for that--she allowed me to make and learn from my own mistake.

Right about the time that I met my next boyfriend, who I would marry a month after we graduated college, my mom met a man at her church who captured her attention. He was smart, thoughtful and charming, and he swept her off her feet. In fact, she married him one month after my wedding. While it took me a while to adjust to the idea of having a stepfather, I was pleased for my mom that she found a man who would treat her with such love and respect.

Life has a funny way of going left just when you think everything is going right. After several years of wedded bliss, my stepfather fell into a depression. Since then, he will sometimes be the man my mother fell in love with, and other times will be a shell of that man, hardly wanting to do anything at all. My mom has accepted this challenge with grace and aplomb. I can usually sense on the phone when things are hard, but she has rarely lost her usual smile and is his constant champion when he needs her most.

Now, a few days into my fourth year of motherhood, I can’t help but be grateful for such a shining example to which I aspire. My mom is my cheerleader, my sounding board, and my best friend. I don’t know what I’d do without her. She is without a doubt the most beautiful woman I know, and my boys and I are lucky to have her. I just hope I am fortunate enough to have some of her mothering skills rub off on me.

So, Mom, now you know. You’ve done an amazing job so far, and I hope to enjoy many more memories with you in the future. Thank you for making my life beautiful.


Patricia said...

Lovely, lovely and, yes, beautiful! This is how all mothers hope their children will feel. I was also a stay-at-home mom and had to guide myself and my two sons through the devastating loss of my husband and their beloved father when they were just 12 and 13. I know where you've been. I have no doubt your beautiful mother has passed along her parenting skills. I hear it in your voice.

Prudence MacLeod said...

What a beautiful post. Truly your mom is a remarkable woman and an inspiration to everyone who reads this. Thanks you so much for sharing.

Ginger Calem said...

I loved reading about your special bond with your mother. Very strong spirit in both of you!

August said...

Such a lovely tribute to a strong, admirable and yes, BEAUTIFUL, woman. Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Kristine. I had chills reading it.

Coleen Patrick said...

What a beautiful tribute! Thanks for sharing.

Minerva said...

Patricia--I am always glad when my story resonates with the sisterhood of women who have lost a loved one suddenly. It's the club that no one wants to join. Thank you for your kind words.

Prudence, Ginger, and Coleen--thanks so much for visiting and leaving your comments!

August--thanks again for coming up with this idea. I don't think I had ever verbalized some of these thoughts before, and I think it has really helped me to finish thinking some things through. And of course I'm glad I am able to share these thoughts with Mom. :)

Isis the Scientist said...

She is a pretty special lady.

And what do you mean you weren't a difficult teenager? Your teenage years were the most difficult of my life. But, that probably because I couldn't convince you to get into more trouble with me.

Kara said...

What a beautiful tribute to your mother. Because you so clearly see the beauty of your mother, I have no doubt you are also a wonderful mom to your children. You are lucky to have such an inspiring role model!

Minerva said...

Isis--ha ha, I know, I was such a goody-goody. :)

Kara--thanks so much! I hope you're right...I know I have an excellent example in my mom. I certainly hope to continue the cycle. :)

Sharon K Owen said...

What a lovely tribute to your mother. I did not always agree with mine or even give her as much respect as she deserved. After having children of my own, I regretted that and tried to make ammends. I have always hoped that I could be the kind of mother my mom wanted to be.

~April ~ said...

So Beautiful! Mom's are the best. Without them who would be look up to?

Minerva said...

Sharon--thank you for your kind words. I am sure that your own childhood and experiences with your mother helped you learn what you wanted to be when you became a mother yourself.

April--I completely agree. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

Julia Whitmore said...

Thank you. My mother died 12 years ago, suddenly and unexpectedly, hours after we'd had lunch together. It felt like such a violation. At 70 she was growing and changing all the time, and was always an inspiration. I still miss her.

Thank you for this personal and touching tribute to your Mother. What a gift to her, and to your readers.

Minerva said...

Julia--thank you for your kind words. Perhaps because of the sudden loss of my father, I am more keenly aware of the blessing I have in my mother. She is turning 70 this fall and couldn't be lovelier, inside and out.