I know it might be weird to be this personal on such a public forum, but I've kept a lot of mom stuff to myself until recently, as I've been meeting children, adults, strangers, friends of friends all going through so many different stages of grief. I always look back and wish I had someone to talk to, or something to read, when I was mourning. So maybe I can be that to them. It also makes me feel better and it helps me to talk.
Ok. Mother's Day. A lot of people ask me how I feel on this day. It's a question I don't want to answer because I don't know. It's awkward. It varies every year and honestly up until last year, it didn't really bother me. Its never a fail-safe formula for a nervous breakdown: I do that without provocation on a normal tuesday. I mostly just want to be by myself: not in a sad way, just like an "out of the way of the flower sales" way. Truth is that I cried for a moment, listened to Iron and Wine and watched the Indians lose on mute while doing a months worth of laundry. It was a day.
But what these kinds of events provoke is reflection, as many life events do. Reflection always makes me feel like I'm looking up at a giant mountain [insert skiing reference], sometimes the friendly green bean kind that makes me feel accomplished and proud, other times like a huge scary Agro-Crag that I am overwhelmingly exhausted to look back on.
Giant Mountain #1, Agro-Crag style: My train-wreck teenage years to being a fully-functioning married career woman. I became mother-less at 16, creating a climate of growing into a "woman" kind of on my own. I mean, boys and the mall and hair and boobs are frightening on their own, but without a strong female influence is downright terrifying. I think that made for the creation of my bravado when it comes to feminist issues. Kind of like, If I'm going to be a woman, I'm going to be superwoman. I'm going to read books and go to women and gender study classes and suit up for war against anyone who threatened my power, keeping most away in an effort to lessen personal loss.
I wonder sometimes if this is dysfunctional, as in, am I only concerned about gender inequities because I'm somehow trying to prove to my mom and myself that I, without a doubt, navigated myself through puberty and blossomed as a crusader for all things feminine?
Maybe not. It occurred to me that the urge to be an independent woman didn't just appear when my mom died. My mother was the strongest person, let alone woman, that I've ever met. Certainly I had been taught to be tough. This wasn't a new idea.
She was so much tougher than I could ever imagine to be. I needed a life-changing trip to the mountains to make me brave enough to order a bagel by myself. She got an idea in her head and made it happen.
Mom Giant Mountains (mole hills for her)
#1: I want to be on the radio. So I do it. My mom was on two different radio stations in her life, one morning show, one during lunch hour. I was an intern in middle school and acquired a taste for coffee by filling up her mug for her during the summer.
#2 I want to be a private detective, pass the police test and catch old ladies stealing cheese at Safeway. So I do it. These were my favorite stories growing up. If anyone wants to hear a story about an old man trying to steal a hairbrush, I have the best one.
#3-5 I'm going to live in Haiti, live with an old nun named Sister Betty and build orphanages, teach 4th graders English, learn a second language, write a ton of songs on my guitar and modify my award-winning cookie recipe using Haitian ingredients. So I do it. She accomplished so many things there. I've never been to Haiti, but the culture is so tightly-wrapped around my childhood that I still use Creole words around my dad and brother.
Also, I'm going to do 8 out of 9 of these things all before I'm 27, get married and have kids. Rock. Star.
She just did stuff, without problems or fear. She was the most inspiring person ever. And my source of being sad on this day is that I just want to be like her because I want her to be so proud of my life and who I've become.
Here is my clarity. I am who she dreamed that I would be. I am the person she wanted me to be when she decided to name me Sarah. I am successful and blessed in a million ways. I have an amazing life partner. I am loved and I am grateful for this life. I have the life that she dreamed up for her daughter. I am who she raised me to be. I know this is true because I know that a mother just wants their kids to be happy and do the right thing. I do this everyday. It's okay if I don't live in Italy and discover a new way to cook beets. I have done a good job being a person, finally.
Being this person, mostly strong, mostly silly, is paying my mother tribute as a parent. What is in me is what she and my father put there. I learned to walk because she taught me. I have valued my education because she valued it. I have found worth in myself because she loved me. What else does a mother want but to have her daughter take what she has taught her and apply it to her own life?
I've always considered myself strong because I lost my mom at a tough age and had to be strong. I've been holding onto this thought that I'm damaged and need to have a bravado to continue to protect what still hurts. But maybe I'm not so damaged anymore. Maybe I'm strong just because I'm Debbie Jane Ronau's daughter.
I miss her, more that my mind can actually process, but I've realized that the stronger I am, the sillier I am, the more I learn to love myself, I am making her memory prouder and bolder and never forgotten. That's nothing to be sad about.
And on days like Mother's Day, where I am inclined to feel sorry for myself, I'm going to allow a wallow or two, but remind myself to strike a firm balance between sadness and celebrating her life, her strength, her silly, and her love. I don't ever want to forget all of that about her.