Friday, May 6, 2016

A LETTER TO MY MOMS, ON MOTHER'S DAY

To my mom:
 
Thank you for raising me...from birth to an almost 10-year-old little girl. It seems unfair that so many of those memories I don't remember because I was too young. But then there are so many I do.

Mom, I remember your laugh and your vibrant smile. I remember the big glasses you always wore (a sign of the 80s). I remember the way you smelled, and I remember you always kept a jar of hand lotion near.

I remember your voice. I remember that you always called my sisters and me "my girls." I remember that you called Dad "my Bob," and I remember that the world "darling" was a large part of your vocabulary!

Thank you, mom.

Thank you for being half of the biggest reason I had such a happy childhood. (Dad was the other half.)
 
Thank you for the summer vacations spent at Lake Tiak-O-Khata. You'd slather us up in sunscreen and braid our hair before we spent the day building sandcastles, swimming in the lake, or eating dripping ice cream cones. Oh to be back there for just a day...
 
Thank you for encouraging my friendships. I have so many good memories of you spending time with my friends and me...Leigh, Katie, Lauren, Molly, Amy, Marley, Kristen, and Paige are the names that come to mind. And you know what I love so much? So many of them still talk about you and still have precious memories of you.
 
Thank you for encouraging me to get involved...and to be an active participant in life. From performances at church, to being on the swim team, to playing basketball at the YMCA...I stayed active and learned a lot about life through those activities. And you were always there to cheer me on.

Thank you for our monthly mother-daughter dates. I think those may have started when you knew you weren't going to get well. You let my sisters and me choose the specifics of our very own "date" with you. I can't remember what you and Chris did for your special date nights, but I remember I always chose a fancy Italian restaurant (because that's me in a nutshell), and Emily always chose Piccadilly. Could we have been any more different? I always ordered cannelloni, and to this day cannelloni reminds me of you. I hold those moments so dear, and I still remember how special you made me feel.

Thank you for our bi-annual trips to Williams Brothers in small-town Philadelphia. It was our favorite spot to go shopping for clothes, and we'd go in the fall and again in the spring...and we'd come home with bags full of clothes...me giddy at my outfit options.

Thank you for buying me my first bra. I was in fourth grade and didn't need a bra. I look back on that time now and wonder if you were afraid that you weren't going to be here when it was time to pick out a bra...so you went ahead and did it for me. I remember proudly wearing it to school one day and then realized that maybe I'd hold onto it for a later date. I quickly realized that bras, really, were no fun.

Thank you for being so brave. Really, mom, how was that so?

Thank you for fighting...for enduring surgery, chemotherapy, lab draws, hospital stays...all to hopefully extend your life with us...and our life with you.

Thank you for teaching me that being silly and goofy is a good thing!

Thank you for teaching me that it's possible...very possible...to laugh and to enjoy life even during a hard time.

Thank you for always turning lemons into lemonade. I remember my sisters and me trying on your wigs and modeling them around the house. Your ability to laugh in spite of being sick was and is inspiring.

Thank you for our morning devotional reading and prayer time. I remember crawling into bed with you...or snuggling on the couch in your room. You'd read a devotion to Emily and me and pray with us and over us.

Thank you for teaching me so much about God and about the importance of faith in the midst of trials. You always told me to never forget how much Jesus loves me. I haven't forgotten that.

Thank you for always fixing my hair...oh, making my hair perfect was a full-time job for this OCD, perfectionist little girl you had. Some days I remember getting into bed with you and letting you fix my hair there because it was too hard for you to get out of bed.

Thank you for being honest with me, mom. I'll never forget you telling little 9-year-old me that you may not live. I didn't believe you, but I look back now and wonder how you found the strength to try to prepare me.

Thank you for ALWAYS wanting what was best for my sisters and me.

Thank you for the letters you'd write to me when I was at overnight camp. I still have those, and do you know how much I cherish them?

Thank you for thinking so unselfishly of your girls and the fact that our lives would likely go on without you. You had gifts for our milestone birthdays set aside. And special things set aside to incorporate on our wedding days. You were so brave, mom.

Much of who I am is because of you...who you were, your example, your love for me.

I love you, mom. Thank you.

///

To my second mom, Jennie:

Thank you for loving my Dad and for not being scared away by the fact that he had two little girls at home.

Thank you for learning everything from scratch. You went from being single with no kids to being married with two children under your roof. I'm sure that was a shock to your system!

Thank you for trying and for simply doing the best that you could.

Thank you for taking me to the salon to get my hair fixed. I'd had a perm, and my mom was always so good at styling it for me. After she died, I was clueless. I remember standing in front of the mirror one day and brushing out my perm. I was this.close to getting out the scissors and cutting it all off. Instead, I brushed out every last curl, and I looked like a frizzy mess. Picture Albert Einstein on steroids. You took me to the salon, and they worked to reverse the perm...and gave us both tips on how to style it.

Thank you for teaching me how to shave my legs. I remember leaving 5th grade and making a pact with some of my girlfriends. We would not return the following fall with shaved legs. We were hell bent on staying tomboys and not getting into girly stuff. Well, imagine my heart when I returned to school as a 6th grader, and all my friends had shaved their legs. Most wore bras; some wore make-up; but almost all of them had smooth legs. I came home that afternoon and asked you to show me how to shave my legs!

Thank you for taking me shopping for back-to-school clothes. I was always so modest, and I remember sitting with you in the dressing room at Gap Kids or The Limited Too (who remembers The Limited Too?). I'd always tell you to turn your head and close your eyes...and you would, and we would both laugh while I quickly got changed and then instructed you that you could open your eyes.

Thank you for loving my friends. Thank you for becoming friends with my friends' parents.

Thank you for helping me choose my first dress for a semiformal dance. I wanted short (like really short because that's what I was into then!) and sequins. We made the trek to downtown Jackson to Lamia's Boutique. I tried on tons of dresses, and you helped me choose one with pink sequins. And I think we even got it shortened.

Thank you for "siding" with me after that disastrous moment as a Cutco Knives salesperson. It was one summer, maybe going into 10th grade? Dad had found a "perfect" job for me, something he'd found advertised in the classified section of the newspaper. I went for an interview and got the job (they probably only turned felons down) and had a training course shortly after. A few minutes into that training course I realized that being a door-to-door salesperson was not in my DNA. I mean, I got nervous in group settings and would make myself physically ill if I had to speak in class. Why any of us thought I could sell knives to strangers is beyond me. Anyway...you understood and made me realize that, sometimes, it's OK to back out. And you talked to Dad about these things, and I think he understood...or he at least tried. That meant a lot to me.

Thank you for helping me through some difficult times in college...from simply being homesick to being deeply depressed, having your shoulder to lean on got me through those tough times. Your words of wisdom helped me move forward.

Speaking of wisdom...my goodness, you have a lot. I could write a book with so many of the gems you've shared with me over the years. "Fake it 'til you make it" is one of my favorites...and something I still pull out many times.

Thank you for understanding my struggle with anxiety and depression. Thank you for encouraging me to see a psychologist and thank you for finding the perfect one for me. That first appointment changed my life for the better...and it was your understanding that led me there.

Thank you for introducing me to Anne Lamott and to Pat Conroy...two of my favorite authors. Anne Lamott writes about her faith, and she is quirky and unconventional. I finally felt like I was allowed to be all of that too.

Thank you for nursing me back to health. You gave me the courage to admit that I had an eating disorder, and you walked beside me through that terrible time. You read the books I read; you and Dad met with my psychologist. You helped hold me accountable. You noticed when I was falling back into old patterns and reminded me to get back on track. Do you remember taking me to get that milkshake in Oxford? I was trying to gain weight quickly, so I could feel "normal" again...I sucked that milkshake down like I had been on a deserted island with no food for weeks...do you remember how sick it made me...I had gone from a no fat "diet" to consuming who knows how much fat in a matter of seconds. Ha! I'm glad I can laugh about that now.

Thank you for the many, many e-mails...through college, grad school, my time abroad, and my time in New York. We're both writers, and we both communicate well that way. I still have so many of those e-mails, and I treasure them...the stories and the words of advice and love.

Thank you for helping me plan my wedding! Rob and I would've eloped if it hadn't been for you.

Thank you for helping me plan my wedding while simultaneously walking with Dad through a cancer diagnosis. That was a hard time, and your ability to do it all was (and still is) astounding to me.

Thank you for working with an interior designer friend to get Rob's house (soon to be our house) unbachelorpadified. We were on our honeymoon, and we returned to a house that felt like it was not just Rob's...it felt like it was mine too. That was such a special gift.

Thank you for the years spent holding Dad's hand and being his rock during the ups and downs of living with cancer. You have been his caretaker when he needed one; you have been his advocate; you have been his personal chef; you have been his nurse (truly...you have even given him IV medicine!); you have been his cheerleader and sounding board...and the list goes on. I can never thank you enough for helping him (and us) through this journey.

Thank you for "getting" me. We have a similar sense of humor, and we're alike in so many ways. Thank you for helping me realize over time that it's OK to be myself, fully...thank you for giving me the courage to embrace who I am.

Thank you for loving my girls. You are their J, and they adore you. Thank you for teaching them about birds, and the garden, and rock and roll...all the important things in life!

Thank you for embracing motherhood and for embracing us.

I love you, Jennie. Thank you.

///