In the past, I had always thought of the holiday as a time to give one's mother a card, perhaps some flowers or a plant, as a way of saying thank-you. This being my first time as a recipient, I spent the day reflecting not just on what it is to be a mother, but what it is to be a family and specifically, a daughter.
We spent Sunday afternoon with my parents. We brought the cards and a gift, but after all the opening was finished, my mom turned to me and said, "do you know what I really want? You always mention the "traumatic" aspects of your childhood, like how we made you eat your peas sitting over a trashcan in case you purged (happened once) and other related events, but you rarely mention the great times. I would like you to list three things you enjoyed about your childhood."
Ouch. Am I really the bratty only-child stereotype I loathe?
So, Mom, here's a list of three I can think of off the top of my spoiled-rotten head:
1. You know how I tease you and Dad about taking the easy route and avoiding making me a tree house/play house by giving me a refrigerator box and then later upgrading to a tent?
Well, I know you did this to encourage my imagination. I had a blast decorating the box with it's trompe l'oeil library and cut-out windows. Who cares if it only lasted a week, collapsing under a hard thunderstorm rain. I was ready to move on anyway. And later the tent - it's still the only tent I own. You bought it for me in elementary school and I enjoyed setting it up in my room, escaping from the house in a weird sort-of way. As another way of safely declaring my independence, I used it in high school in our backyard and maybe once in a while, consumed an adult beverage in it. I still brought it with me to college and pitched it in the middle of Jefferson National Forest and declared myself an "outdoorsy girl." I brought it to various hippie festivals even though the rain-resistance cover was no longer resisting and I'd wake up in a rain puddle covered with dew and insects that had found their way in through various burn holes (I didn't do it!). I then redeclared myself an "indoorsy girl." See, you knew I would outgrow my treehouse in a matter of months and the playhouse would be too large to take with me. Maybe one day I'll pass the stinky, leaky, hole-ridden, dry-rotted tent on to Avery. Or maybe just a shiny new box will do.
2. You insisted I travel and "grab the gusto."
Looking back, I think you probably saw that I had some control issues and the habit of playing it safe. It was you and Dad that encouraged me to study abroad in Italy with another university. You guys sold Dad's bass to fund the trip and drove me to Atlanta to catch the flight to Amsterdam. Sitting in the airport, Mom, you struck up conversations with other students hoping one of them would talk to your shy daughter. I was so embarassed, but it worked. And I would call home and you guys encouraged me to skip the school trip to Assisi and hop a train to Capri with my new friends. Mom, you kept saying "grab the gusto!" and it quickly became your mantra. You were right, I had the time of my life that summer.
3. You were a storybook mom.
I guess I take some things for granted. Growing up, you took every opportunity to educate, whether it be pointing out lichen on the nature trails and explaining symbiotic associations or by simply pointing to a bird in the water and saying, "glossy ibis." By the time I was seven, I'm sure I could identify most wildlife on Assateague.
You hosted gingerbread house decorating parties for all the kids in our neighborhood. This not only made an impression on me, but on them, too. My former babysitter, with whom I recently connected, tells me about how she trusted and confided in you and how she now tries to be a mother like you to her young daughter.
My birthday parties were Martha Stewart worthy! The cakes, the costumes, and the games! You made me feel so special.
You guys traveled and took me with you all over the United States and beyond. What a lucky kid I was.
So, happy Mother's Day, Mom. Sorry I sulked my way through growing up. And I'm sorry I don't tell you I love you more. Just another one of my many hang-ups I suppose and I'm sure I didn't get that from you, but Dad on the other hand...