Like most people, I’ve had the same mother my whole life. But the funny thing is I only just recently got to know her. Since I became a mother, my own mother suddenly went from being mom to being a woman. And a girl. And a daughter. And a friend.
Each visit I have with my mother reveals something new. Like the other day when I noticed she wore a silk scarf tied stylishly around her neck. “I like your scarf,” I said. “Is it new?” “No,” she said smiling. Then she lowered her voice and leaned closer to me and added. “Rudy gave it to me.”
“Oh really,” I said smiling back at her. Rudy was the Swiss ski instructor my mother dated before she was married. Just imagining my mother before she met my father is hard enough. But a ski instructor! Who gave her gifts!
Then there’s the story of her cross- country car trip with a friend. The only time she’ll confess to having smoked a cigarette, or two. The friend, as it turned out, went on to marry a Danish Count she had met on the subway back in New York.
An only child, my mother has kept all her childhood friends. She remembers the first movie she ever saw, “Skippy.” She also remembers roller skating across the Brooklyn Bridge. And the day she had to call her father from Manhattan because the high heels she was wearing were killing her and she couldn’t even make it to the subway.
My mother’s memories are like little treats for me. They are pieces of a splendid puzzle that has been sitting untouched in a box for most of my life and now that I have discovered it, I am wondering what took me so long.
I want to work on this puzzle every day until it’s finished and then keep it out of the box to admire and show off to everyone.
I’m especially interested in my mother’s memories of parenting. How she raised five children without ever once being unkind. Most days I can barely handle two.
My mother never imposed her wishes and dreams on us. The fact that I spent the first twelve summers of my life topless didn't faze her. It sure gave the neighbors something to talk about.
She called me the other day to tell me how disappointed she was in herself for not making it all the way up to the bowl at Tuckerman’s Ravine on Mt. Washington. She and dad had decided to hike up there for old time’s sake.
My mother will be 82 in June.
She came home with a pair of collapsible ski poles that a man named Steve from Montreal gave her on his way down. He told her he didn’t need them and he was sure she had done nice things for people before. As he watched my mother slowly make her way up the rocky trail What did he see? A nutty old lady someplace she didn't belong? Or an inspiration. I am willing to bet, according to his kind gesture, it was the latter
It seems Steve noticed in an instant, what it took me 40 years to see. He couldn’t have been more right.