In less than a month, I’ll be 26. Closer to 30 than to 20. An adult with a job, grocery lists that include things like cat litter and spanikopita, bills to pay and a family that lives farther away than I ever thought possible. There are days when I wish I could curl up in my mother’s arms again and have her rock me to sleep. And I know there are days she wishes she could do the same.
On my recent trip home, my mom and I reenacted a photo taken of us shortly after she gave birth to me. We were sitting on the front steps of our house. It’s the same house my parents live in today. I love everything about these pictures. There’s a different car in the driveway now (my mom’s Big Fat Cow), a different tint in each photo, and different hair cuts (or in my case, hair where there once was none). A wonderland of flowers now frame the house where once there were just fledgling blooms. My mom was an inexperienced mother then, nervous no doubt. Now, she is an expert, an advisor, a co-pilot, a friend — she’s even a mother to nature (as evidenced below).
On my last day home, this fawn showed up in our backyard one morning. I’m sure the squirrels and birds and skunks and raccoons that my parents have been feeding for many years spread the word throughout the neighborhood that generous people live in the yellow house.
She lay in those leaves all day long, standing up occasionally on jello legs to munch on ferns. The mama deer came back for her baby later that afternoon. My mom pulled into the driveway after dropping me off at the airport to find them both standing there and watched as they trotted off together. I guess that’s what all good mothers have in common. They take wobbly legs and teach them how to sprint.
There are certain things about my mother that will always fill me with awe.
As a kid, I would marvel at how she could get all the leftover cookie batter off a spatula with a quick swipe of her finger. Not a drop would go to waste.
When I was little, I used to get out of bed a lot. A LOT. She never lost patience when I came traipsing down the stairs. She would parade me back up to bed and sit with me until I fell asleep. Sometimes she’d have to crawl out of my room on hands and knees so I wouldn’t wake up.
In the summer, she’d cart me to art class and swimming practice and orchestra rehearsal, tirelessly taxiing me around town. And during the school year, my lunches were always gourmet. I blame her for my current inability to eat a regular sandwich. She always managed to pack me lunches that made all the other kids jealous. She made vegetarian bologna (yes, it exists) look so good that carnivorous kids wanted to take my sandwiches. I had to shelter my leftover homemade pizza as though it was a member of the witness protection program.
She taught me how to rescue baby birds that had fallen during flight and resuscitate them with worms crushed in an eye dropper. Her compassion is endless.
And look how beautiful she is. I love this picture of her and my brothers.
And this one…
And this one, too. After just giving birth, her hair is flawless. I look a little like an alien, though. She still thought of me as a miracle despite this minor detail.
And I love this picture of us on the front porch.
And this one of us at Niagara Falls… Oh, and there’s the hat I lost.
Thanks for all you do, Mom. I love you. Happy Birthday!
I know you’re supposed to live in the moment, but sometimes a look into the past can be good for the soul…and good for a laugh.
Growing up, sometimes I looked like a boy.
And sometimes I dressed my cat up and rolled him around in a baby stroller.
And sometimes I wore airbrushed unicorn T-shirts. I cried when I forgot that hat in a Canadian bathroom. Sometimes I’m totally ridiculous.
But not as ridiculous as that shirt.
It’s weird how looking at old pictures can remind you of things you didn’t realize you’d forgotten. I can almost hear my brothers’ voices when they were kids when I look at these photos.
I remember the day Colin and I went horseback-riding. I don’t remember where we were, but I remember going. I remember my mom telling him to hold on to me and keep me safe.
I remember the necklace with the plastic hearts on stretchy elastic. I remember the couch in my living room… Oh wait, we still have that couch.
(I think I intentionally repressed the memory of those acid-washed cargo jeans, though. Wow.)
I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with my brothers when we were kids, but I always looked forward to seeing them. The house felt fuller when they were around, more like it was supposed to. When my mom and I would pick the boys up from their mom’s house for Wednesday night dinners, I loved hiding in the back seat of the van to try to scare them. It never got old, and they were never surprised.
I remember dinners where Graham would say he didn’t like mushrooms or tomatoes anymore, and before even trying one, I decided that neither did I.
I remember Colin’s massive cassette tape collection and how he used to blast Gloria Estefan on his boom box.
I remember Graham used to “slam dunk” me into the couch or onto the floor. And I used to retort “I’m gonna bite you” when he’d yell at me to “quit being a pill.”
All these memories from two photos of “horseback riding.” I’m pretty lucky to have such great big brothers who protected me and played with me — even if I really was a pill sometimes.
Today I caught myself singing Hanson in my car. Old school Hanson. They weren’t on the radio or on my iPod. Without any prompting, I felt the urge to belt out “Man From Milwaukee” in the private safety of The Little Blue Gem. (There’s nothing safe or private about the Blogosphere, though, so I guess the secret is out now.)
Patrick and I had an interesting discussion the other day about the way the music you once loved can never really leave your system. If you really, really LOVE a song or an artist, you’ll always love it. I can’t think of a song that I used to like in my younger days that doesn’t still strike a chord in me when I hear it today.
Music is nostalgic. It is visceral. It conjures up memories. It makes you dance like Snoopy. When you love something, it never really leaves you, even if you feel ashamed about ever having loved it in the first place. Am I embarrassed that as a 13-year-old I sobbed like a baby when my VHS tape of Hanson clips got taped over? A little. But Middle of Nowhere got me through my awkward middle school years, and I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for those three blonde brothers.