I am sitting in my car, my coat wrapped tightly around me. I am shaking, but my tremors aren’t a result of the cold winter air. In my hands I hold a grainy black and white printed photograph. Small white lines create the edge of a tiny profile, and if I look closely enough, I am able to make out the graceful, faint curve of a spine and what appear to be arms and legs.
I am filled with wonder as I sit there, looking at this snapshot of my unborn child. For some reason, I had convinced myself that I was having a boy, but the photograph in my hands reveals a different truth: A girl. My daughter.
I am overwhelmed with so many emotions—fear, surprise, excitement, love, wonder—that I can’t look away from the image. I am holding, both in my hands and in the low depth of my belly, the proof that—in a few short months—I will become a mom. A mother. As I think of that word, I think of my own mother, and suddenly, the wonder of this miracle I hold is replaced with a completely different wonder:
How will I ever be as good of a mom as my own mother has been to me?
* * *
I could probably write a book about how wonderful I think my mother is, but since I don’t have that kind of time right now, suffice it to say she is one of the most amazing people I know. And one of the best things about her is that she’s so much more than just my mom: She is my friend. She is my cheerleader (I can guarantee you that within minutes of this blog post being published she will text me telling me how great it is, as she’s done with every post since the first day the blog went live. Thanks, Mom!). And aside from my daughter Zoey, she is one of the best life teachers I’ve ever had:
She taught me to find beauty and wonder in everything.
She makes fairies appear out of nowhere, and she helps catch fireflies in jars on hot summer nights. She points out high-floating butterflies, and she notices slow-crawling caterpillars. She reminds me to always turn toward the sun. “There’s nothing like the feel of sunshine on your face,” she always says.
She taught me that I am enough.
I am 22, and a boy has just broken my heart. My mother drives down to my college to see me, to make sure that I’m okay. After she takes me to lunch, we sit in her car together, listening to a CD she brought with her specifically for this trip. “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar” fills the space around us, and together we belt out, “I am strong! I am invincible!” It is raining outside, but the sound of the raindrops on the car are no match for the thunder of our words.
She taught me that laughter makes everything better.
“At least we’re still laughing,” she always says. When we are together, we laugh—hard. We are able to find humor in times of sadness. My daughter and I go to visit my parents, and we stay up into the late hours, talking and laughing. The next day we all wake up tired, and with the physical reminders of that laughter—tummy aches and salty tear stains on our cheeks—but it is worth it, because we are happy.
She taught me that life only happens if you make it happen.
I’m fresh out of college and not sure where to begin or what it is I should be doing. My mother comes to visit. One morning I find her on the floor of my apartment with newspapers spread out around her. She circles jobs I might find interesting, and I’m thankful for her help. “Because you’ve got to start somewhere,” she says.
She taught me that kindness matters.
There is a package in my mailbox, but there’s nothing going on in my life that requires a gift; it’s just another Tuesday. I open it and unpack all the little presents that are nestled inside. And then, at the bottom, I find a note written in my mother’s familiar handwriting: “Just because I can.”
She taught me to never to give up hope.
I’m lost and sick and fading away from life. It feels like I am drowning. My mother, who never wants me to be anything other than happy, recognizes my pain and, because I won’t speak up, she finally does. On a cold, January day she calls me, and in her actions and words and steadfast love, she says, “You can’t keep doing this to yourself. You can’t keep living like this. I need you to be healthy. Zoey needs you to be healthy. You need you to be healthy. I want you to love yourself and your life again.” Her words are what I need to hear, and because of them, I swim back to the surface of my life.
* * *
Last Monday, my daughter Zoey lost her first tooth. I can only imagine it was an emotional—and extremely exciting—moment for her. I have to wonder about this because I wasn’t there to see it happen.
I was sitting in my apartment and eating my dinner when Zoey FaceTimed me to show me the gap in her smile where her tooth had once been. As I spoke with her, I could see my face down in the corner of my phone, smiling and happy and excited for this momentous occasion. I was glad my face wasn’t giving away the thoughts that were swirling around my head, ones that were crying out, It’s just the start of missing out on things like this…
As parents, there will be things you miss, things that will happen when you are not around. Because my daughter’s time is spent divided between two homes, I am acutely aware that the odds of me missing out on special moments like this greatly increase. Although I know this, knowing I wasn’t there to help prepare for the Tooth Fairy’s impending visit that night was just too much to bear.
After I hung up with Zoey, I kept my tears at bay long enough to call the one person that I knew would be there, waiting on the other end, ready to take my call.
She picked up on the first ring.
I didn’t even say hi. The only thing I was able to get out was, “She lost her tooth…” before I was a blubbering mess of tears. And there my mom was on the other end, saying, “Oh, honey…sweetie…”, and when I still couldn’t get out any of the words I was wanting to say, she simply said, “I know.”
My mother has taught me so many things, but most importantly, she has taught me the true meaning of what it means to be a mother: It means passing down lessons, making time, and simply paying attention. It means that your child’s joy is your joy, that their pain is your pain, that their life is an extension of your own. It means unconditional love. Being a mother means you always know exactly what it is your children need. It means knowing what’s in their hearts. It means always being just a phone call away. It means understanding so much that all you have to say is, “I know.”
* * *
On a hot July day, the graceful curve of my daughter’s spine is finally placed in my hands. I pull Zoey close, and she wiggles her way into the curve of my own neck, nestling into the spot that she will eventually claim as her own. As I close my eyes, trying to take a mental snapshot of this moment, I’m reminded of that first black and white printed photograph, that cold air, and the question I asked myself: How will I ever be as good of a mom as my own mother has been to me?
Having Zoey finally in my arms makes this wonder disappear, and in its place, a determination settles in and an answer appears:
You will be. Just remember: You were taught how by one of the very best.
* * *
Tell Us: What’s the best lesson your mom taught you?
Mom – You are strong. Funny. Independent. Kind. Smart. Selfless. Authentic. You are everything I’ve ever wanted to be, and you are everything I want Zoey to be. Thank you for all the lessons you’ve passed down and for the lifetime of love you have given me. Just so you know, and so you don’t ever have to wonder: You are the very best. I love you with everything I have.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.
At the The Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.