When I was a kid, up until I left for University, I was on a competitive swim team in my little hometown in Trenton. We were a really small team and many of us were required to attend practice up to ten times per week, two hours in the morning and two hours after school. It’s funny for me to sit here on my couch as I write this, thinking back on that chunk of my life remembering the 4:30am wake ups, thirty-minute commutes to CFB Trenton to jump into a chilly pool by 5:30, engaging in exhausting sets with scary names like “VO2 MAX” and “ENDURANCE III” for two hours before breakfast (and I always remembering it being Winter, because everything is worse in the Winter). Morning practices were never easy for me, I was always happy with myself after I completed them, but I was grumpy without sleep, and I was still a hormonal teenager on the best of days. My mom, who went back to work when my brother left for University, picked me up after practice every morning at 7:30 am, car idling in the parking-lot, in the cup-holder: a buttered bagel1 wrapped in tinfoil atop a travel-mug full of hot chocolate waiting to be devoured.
Despite working full-time she volunteered at all the swim-meets, and when they needed someone to act as Meet Manager, she did that. When the Starter was MIA, she’d be the one to declare “Take your marks”. She managed the swim team and when it was threatened to be shut down, she fought to keep it open. She organized fundraisers, and worked at the Bingo Hall to raise money for the club, coming home at 10pm reeking of cigarette smoke. She took time off work to drive us to our out-of-town meets, never complained about the cost of our equipment, and when I told her I didn’t think I wanted to swim anymore, she said it was okay. That she wanted me to do whatever it is that made me happy.
When I moved to a town 4-hours away to go to University and would call to tell her how difficult I was finding it, she’d put money in my bank account so I could treat myself. I think she meant something like ice-cream, but I probably spent it on beer. When I was barely 19 and I told her I wanted to drop out of University and take a year off school, she helped me figure out my plan of action. She encouraged me to move back into their home, and hardly ever gave me a hard time for going out every night, drinking their booze, and generally just acting like an entitled brat, even though I most certainly deserved it.
When I told my mom I wanted to focus on art, she bought me an easel, a drafting table and a slew of paints for my new apartment. She drove me to the art-school orientations, she paid for every post-secondary school application, bought every supply, and when I failed again, though I totally would have deserved it, she didn’t make me feel bad, like she knew the punishment I was giving myself was enough. And when I sold my first painting on my own, she told me she believed I had it in me to work as an artist.
When we got a dog, even though I was pretty sure she thought we were crazy, she drove up that weekend with a bunch of toys and supplies, acting like we’d just had a baby.
Oh, and when we were kids, she did that elf on the shelf thing long before it was all over Pinterest. Ours was named Snowflake, and my mom was so good at hiding him that it lead me to believe in Santa for much longer than I am proud to admit.
For the last week or so, I’ve been trying to figure out a single story to write about for Mother’s Day, and I couldn’t. I was racking my brain, Myrtle Beach trips? Her incessant need to save turtles and frogs off the road? How bummed she was when I was a baby and it seemed like I might not ever like bananas? The absolute, child-like glee she exudes the second her vacation starts? Those are all great stories, but this is my mother. How can I do her justice? I can’t!
Mom, Happy Mothers Day. I don’t think I’ve ever articulated to you how grateful I am for everything you’ve done for me, most of all your ongoing support in any path I choose to take. I just want you to know I’m paying attention. Thank you for letting me screw up and figure things out on my own. Thank you for reminding me to brush my hair. Thank you for always letting me complain. Thank you for believing me. Thank you for worrying. Thank you for calling. Thank you for always loving me even when I’m an unloveable jerk.
I love you.