Friday, May 9, 2014

Mother's Day

When I was born in 1980, you could smoke in the maternity ward.
You also were assigned a roommate.
My own Mama, knowing she didn't want her newborn baby girl exposed to the secondhand smoke her roommate was emitting, opted to keep me in the nursery. She herself would sit in the windowed lounge down the hall, where infants were not allowed.
That's right.
Not only was she, at age 18, all alone at St. Joseph's Hospital, she didn't even have her baby to spend immediate postpartum days with.

Because it was best for her child.
And because she is selfless.
She always has been.
That was her first decision in motherhood.
She hasn't ever let me down.

She just told me this story as I sat by her bedside all last week. It was the first time I had heard it.
And as she was discharged, she went back to campus to complete the last two months of her freshman year of college. I went home with her own Mama, my Grandma S. 
The House That Built Me.

God I love that story.
I love this story, our story.
My story.

She has taught me everything. By intention or design and even without her knowing she is.
She's a legendary cook. As we drove to their house on Good Friday this year, the Dad and I anticipated what our weekend menu consisted of. Randomly, I said, "how good would salmon be?" And by random, I mean, I eat salmon less than one time a year. It wasn't a staple in our house growing up.
Yes, that evening's meal was grilled salmon. She said she accidently walked by the fish counter that day and thought, how good would salmon be?

I mentioned a few days ago as I was online shopping that I was looking for a traditional pair of Birkenstock sandals- you know, the hippie-brown leather-Jesus style. I have never ever owned a pair even though I went to an extremely granola-y college. My own Mama looked me. I just ordered a pair last week and they were delivered Saturday, she said.

She's in everything I am. 

This Mother's Day, our first post-diagnosis doesn't change how I feel about her. It doesn't make me panic or stream through the what-ifs. It hasn't taken me to dark places. I for one know I have never taken my own Mama for granted. I have never wished I could take back the years where I hated her- or thought I did. I don't wish to apologize for who I was to her. I don't have to use today to make up for a year where she isn't high on my priority list. It didn't take a diagnosis for me to take stock in our relationship. Nothing has changed. 

In comparison, we're starkly different. I am an extrovert and thrive in social settings. I like attention! She abhors sunshine, makeup, hair color. She's practical where I am not. She was a stay at home mom until I was a 6th grader. I have a Village of girlfriends- some I've been friends with since I was that 6th grader, while she prefers my Dad's company nearly exclusively. I like the beach, she prefers the woods. I like reading and music, she likes sewing and flowers. I like fashion, tattoos, technology, and pop culture. She through all of my phases, insecurities, sizes, moods, statements, and announcements has been a resolute supporter and acceptor. I am emotional and nostalgic where she is cognitive and realistic. We fought over nothing. We fight over nothing. She doesn't judge me. She doesn't worry about hurting my feelings with honesty. 

She's taught me to be selfless. To put others especially my daughter, husband, and Village first. It's been easy for me to do that, because it's how I was raised. The greatest gift I can give her is to bloom where she planted me, to pay it forward in her homage. 

One of her favorite, oft-dry, overused cliches is Everything Happens for a Reason.
I guarantee she would accept she even has cancer for a reason.
She's already said she's going to be a beacon for recognizing symptoms and advocating self health. She's willing to be our revolutionary trailblazer to push people to talk about the ickier things in life. Ask uncomfortable questions of your elders. Be the martyr for her baby sister, daughter, nieces, and granddaughter.

Happy Mother's Day.
Mama loves. 

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