May 10, 2009

mother's day

I was born when my mother was only nineteen, an 'oops' baby that changed the course of her life. She was married to my father on Valentine's Day 1981, three months before I was born; she was divorced two years later. Afterwards our little nuclear family consisted of me, my mom, and my maternal grandmother, a cranky, functional alcoholic who my mother turned to only out of desperation, at a time when she had just declared bankruptcy and couldn't afford day care.

Many of my sweetest memories involve my mother: standing on a chair at the stove on Saturday mornings, flipping pancakes as she poured batter; playing Around the World on the basketball courts at the elementary school; riding in the back of her new pick-up truck; taking road trips to New York, D.C., Ocean City -- and that accompanying feeling of getting up early in the still-cool fog of morning, and picking up breakfast on the road; learning to move the gearshift correctly on her stick shift (she'd push in the clutch and say "now!" and I'd shift). We went to Broadway shows and to the circus; we traveled around the East Coast.

As an adult I am grateful for the way she taught me -- and now my sister and brother -- to feel wonder at the world, to take notice of things, to be unabashed. She still feels so much youthful excitement. Last year she was incensed at how my siblings refused to take a day off school to go feed the circus elephants in Lexington Market. "Who are these spawn?" she cried. (She herself hated school and was adept at cutting class). On our cross-country road trip she was game for anything, and often sought out crazy things to do on the way, like stopping at "the mustard capital of the world" (Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin) or driving down a forgotten scenic highway in South Dakota to see the World's Largest Quail.

The thing that is hardest about living in Portland is being 3000 miles away from her. We're close; we talk a couple times a week. The worst nightmare I've ever had in my life is one in which I discovered my mom to be dead. My first reaction was, "Who will I tell my stories to?" Because we're so alike, my mom is my sounding-board for nearly everything. Something doesn't seem real unless I've told her about it.

Travis, Mom, and Ashley on the road again

love you, Mama. Happy Mother's Day.

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