This is my last winter break at home before I go back to school for my final semester. Things are going to change a lot next year. I will have a real that will most likely be out of town, and I won’t be coming home for all of the breaks.
Both of our lives are going to change. For one thing, your finances are going to improve. Also, I will be much more on my own, unless you keep sending me those “care” packages you have for all of my college years.
I’ve had some time over this break to really think about all of my growing years, and I want to tell you about some things you may have totally forgotten, but things that have stuck in my mind all of these years.
They say more about who you are than your career success, degrees, or leadership of that food pantry you have made so successful. They speak to your unfailing courage, your stamina, and your commitment for setting priorities and always making me a part of those priorities. I know being a single mom was tough. So here it goes.
Do you remember?
When I was six, I was invited to Lillian’s house for a sleepover.
This was one of many sleepovers, of course, but here’s why this one stands out for me. At about 5 p.m., you were getting my bag ready. I was really upset because my favorite pajamas were in the dirty clothes. You stopped everything, took those pajamas, and put them in the wash.
Some might think this was spoiling me, but you got it right, mom. You knew that I was nervous about leaving home overnight and you wanted me to have every bit of comfort possible. Having those pajamas was important in that moment.
When the divorce was final, we had to move.
Even though it was only a few blocks over from the house I grew up in, you knew that it was like the other side of the planet for me. You walked me back and forth from our former house to our apartment and back again, over and over, until I understood that it was not so far away. On top of that, and I don’t know how you did this, you found that same wallpaper and re-created the same bedroom I had at the old house. It might have been a small thing to you at the time, but it was one of the most important things in my little selfish world.
I never understood that you were exhausted most of the time.
You went to work every day. You came home and cooked my favorite meals. You sat with me while I did my homework. You packed my lunches and through all of that, you found time to go back to school, so you could get your Master’s and make a better life for me. You scheduled your classes on nights I was at dad’s, so you wouldn’t take away time from “us.” I want you to know that I understand this now, though I did not then.
You always made bedtime special.
That story was never skipped, and I still did not understand how much you had to do after I went to bed – studying, laundry, cleaning. You were just amazing, and this little girl didn’t have a clue.
I went to dads every other weekend. I can only imagine what you did during that time.
I know that I always came home to a spotless house, all of my clothes washed, my favorite foods in the pantry, and I never figured out how things got that way.
As I grew older, I was able to do more for myself, but the demands on you didn’t lighten up – they just changed.
You were my chauffeur, in charge of entertainment for my friends who always seemed to gather at our apartment, and always the mom who said “yes” when we wanted a ride to the mall or to go to the skating rink. You always said “yes” when I wanted 2-3 friends for a sleepover. You made the popcorn and the pizzas. You made sure there was plenty of soda, you were up and cooking breakfast for all of us. At the same time, I never felt like there was too much parental control and you allowed me to decide what to do and when to do it.
You were the mom who drove us to that concert 40 miles away.
Do you remember that evening? We piled out of the car, as you pointed out exactly where you would pick us up in 3 hours. What you did for 3 hours we never even considered. But when we did get picked up, you had a CD in the player of the band we had just gone to see. That’s when Cheri leaned over and told me, “You have the coolest mom ever.” I don’t think I ever told you that.
Not all times were great.
We had our differences and our squabbles, like the time I came home to find Familoop parental control has been installed on all of the devices in the house. I screamed and yelled about my privacy and freedom. You just remained calm, and I knew that battle was lost. How you could stay so calm always amazed me.
Remember when I joined the swimming team and decided to quit after three weeks? You put your foot down big time then.
And you made the stakes pretty high. If I quit the team, I could expect no chauffeuring that summer to anywhere else. No concerts, no nothing.
The truth is, other moms were not willing to drive us around like you. Other moms didn’t sing in the car with us. Other moms didn’t listen to our gripes and moans about teachers and “first loves” and give us words of wisdom. I stuck it out with the swim team and was actually pretty proud of the blue ribbon I took in the 100-yard butterfly. You obviously were too, because there you were in the bleachers, cheering and whistling.
Here’s the thing, mom. You were never a quitter, not even once.
When money was tight, you always found a way. When you probably couldn’t go one step further, you took that step anyway. And you taught me these same things.
Living with me as a teenager couldn’t have been much fun at times. When things were bad at school or with a boyfriend, I always managed to take it out on you.
And there you were, knowing that you were not the reason for my anger. Always, your response was, “Why don’t you tell me about your day?”
You knew if I got it out, things would be better. And do you remember the two phrases you said to me always? I do. “This, too, shall pass away,” and “If it will matter 5 years from now, then it is something you should get upset about.” I will take those two phrases to my grave after I have used them on my own kids.
Have I ever told you what a good listener you have been?
I don’t think so, but I need to tell you that now. Without your listening ear, life would have been so much harder.
Do you remember when I got my first speeding ticket? You had to go to court with me. I remember the judge asking you, “Does Dianna realize the seriousness of speeding?” And I remember you saying, “She understands that I will pull her license long before you do.” The judge chuckled, but your words stuck. I knew you meant what you said and that you would follow through. I knew that because, in all of our years, when you said you would do something – get the treats for the school party, take my friends and me to that movie, save up for a big blast vacation to the beach when I graduated from high school – you did it. Not once have you ever let me down, mom, though I have let you down many times.
One of my best memories, though it wasn’t at the time, was when you found pot stuffed in my underwear drawer. You didn’t say anything – you just took it. Of course I was panicked looking for it – tearing my drawer apart. After all, I was going to a party that night. You just sat on the deck, calmly looking out over the yard, enjoying my distress. When I came out onto the deck, probably looking very unhappy, you told me that you had taken my pot for a little experiment. You had heard that birds sang much prettier when they ate it, so you put it all in the bird feeder and mixed it up with the seeds already in there. You were waiting to see if that were true. It is on moments like these that I look back and realize what a great parental control example you were for me.
You always had the best way of letting me know I had been caught – no screaming or yelling, just taking action and then explaining to me what would happen if I repeated that mistake.
So, now we’ve made it. You have a successful career, and I will soon have that degree. You have been my teacher, my confidante, my biggest cheerleader, and my hero.
You have taught me by example, even when those lessons were hard to learn. You pushed me. You said “no” when you had to and “yes” whenever you could; you did and did and did for me. But most of all you have loved me more than anything else in this world. I am safe, confident, and ready to meet any challenge this world may throw at me because of you, mom. You did good!
From the daughter who doesn’t say thank you and I love you enough,