For standing over my crib in the middle of the night, feeding me a bottle, even though you were barely able to hold yourself up because you were sick with the flu… thank you. You never had time off or sick leave. Fortunately for your family, you had the work ethic of an aircraft engineer.
For having the foresight to realize the importance of early childhood education through play, and for sending me to Mother’s Morning Out a couple days a week at Mrs. Hague’s preschool… thank you.
For quality time spent with me, whether it was a trip to the Big Star grocery store where you’d let me play with the produce scales, or to the Farmer’s Market to pick out unshucked corn and snap beans, or to let me help you harvest vegetables from the garden in our yard, or day trips to visit family members, or the time you took to read me countless Richard Scarry books at bedtime… thank you.
For allowing me to have peanut butter & jelly on white bread instead of whole wheat bread that one cold morning when we packed up and moved to Winston-Salem, leaving behind my best friend and my first four years of memories… thank you. That move was the most traumatic thing that had happened up to that point in my life. That pb&j on white bread was the only thing I was looking forward to on moving day.
For recognizing, exactly one year after that move, that all of us were miserable in Winston-Salem and wanted nothing more than to return to our home: Raleigh… thank you. I came downstairs one morning for breakfast, sleepy and unexcited about another day of school with that insane and verbally abusive kindergarten teacher. You were ironing in the kitchen and asked me how I’d like to move back to Raleigh. I still remember the tremendous relief and then subsequent joy I felt when I realized you were serious.
For always coming to my bedside in the middle of the night when I called you because I was having terrible leg aches. For always hearing me, coming right away, and bringing the hot water bottle and then wrapping my legs in thick blankets… thank you. Even at age 42, when I’m sick or hurting, I still want my mom.
For allowing me to keep my pacifier (called “sing”) longer than any other Mom in the history of the world would have, because you knew I’d give it up when I was ready… thank you. Turns out age 8 was the magic number. And I quit because I wanted to; not because someone forced me to. I learned that I could do anything I set my mind to.
For being a stay-at-home mom throughout most of my elementary school years… thank you. Many days between first and fifth grade were difficult. Knowing I could always go to the edge of the school playground during recess, and disappear into the woods for just a moment to walk a few steps to our back gate, and if I called loud enough you’d hear, and come outside to touch base with me – that was all I needed to push through the rest of the day. (Bonus points for all the times you brought me and a friend a glass of lemonade or iced tea.)
For knowing I was having trouble finding my “tribe” of people in middle school, and for proactively searching for a youth theatre program because you knew how much I dreamed of performing on stage. You saw a talent in me that I didn’t even know I had, and you got me enrolled in Raleigh Little Theatre’s youth summer camp, Teens on Stage, during its pilot years. I know it must’ve been expensive. But you felt it would be a good fit, and something to keep me occupied during the summer. You also had a hunch I’d find my tribe there… thank you. I did.
For being brave enough to even offer to take me, and three of my equally musical theatre-obsessed, hormone-driven, teenage friends Justin, Chuck, and Amanda to the beach for a week, where you’d rent one condo for all of us, and you’d cook all our meals, and drive us wherever we wanted to go. And as for you, you’d just borrow a bunch of library books, bring your needlepoint, and you alone would chaperone us, because, “wouldn’t that be fun?” you said. … thank you. And, also, I’m sorry.
For carving a path in the road between our house and Raleigh Little Theatre, sometimes multiple times a day so that I never missed an audition, class, event, rehearsal, or performance… thank you. If I had to have a second home, you sure picked a good one. That place got me through high school and beyond.
For allowing me to make lots of “Fs” and then drop of out college on my first try, because I just wasn’t ready. And for not making me feel guilty, useless, or like a failure for doing so… thank you. I needed to go at the right time, when I was ready and could appreciate what it meant to have a college degree. I needed to spend some time working a full-time job in a cubicle to realize that I did not want to spend the rest of my life working a full-time job in a cubicle.
For not trying to stand in my way when I got another crazy idea, or said things like, “Mom, I don’t care if there’s six feet of snow and ice on the ground; I will be in Times Square, in New York City, for New Year’s Eve this year,” or “Mom, I’m quitting my job and I’m moving to New York. In two weeks.” …thank you. Because you allowed me to dream, you also allowed me to figure out how to make a plan, be focused, stay determined, and not get thwarted by monkey wrenches. That skill has paid off my entire adult life.
I’m a mom myself, and yet I still rely on you – my mom – for so many things. So, for all those things I don’t know how to do – like hemming dance recital costumes, designing and making Halloween costumes, crafting together props for imaginary play, designing gardens and decorating tips… thank you. For all those things I simply can’t do – like being three places at once, for all the times you’ve babysat the kids when I’ve had doctor’s appointments, illnesses, and surgeries, for all the times you’ve picked up the kids when I had to work late, or took them to their respective doctor’s appointments or extracurricular activities because Matt and I both were occupied or inundated… thank you.
As I get older, and as my kids get older, I realize at quicker intervals how many gifts and how much wisdom you’ve given me over the past forty-two years. As I experience “firsts” with my kids – firsts I know you’ve long ago been through (like middle school angst, driving, and college applications) – I feel like I’m running out of time and bandwidth to articulate all the things I need to properly thank you for.
Every day something else comes to mind for which I owe you (at the very least) a “thank you,” but more honestly, something like a fully-funded, semester-long excursion with Dad to London, or a reoccurring annual stay for the rest of your lives at the fanciest B&B surrounded by antique stores, tea rooms, and English gardens. I know I’ve told you before, but saying “thank you” never feels adequate enough for the many, many ways you’ve enriched my life. I know I fall short in a lot of ways, like being stubborn, impatient, opinionated, critical, OCD-minded to a fault, and so on. But all of the good qualities I have? I owe every single one of them to you.
Thank you for always being the person I aspire to be, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day. I love you.