My hero is my mother. I am certain that I am not the first, the only, or the last to declare that her mother is the one she admires, the one who models everything she would like to be in her everyday beauty, in the way that she can keep you rolling in laughter or soothe away the deepest of wounds. However, when I think of my mother, it is not one, but two individuals who infiltrate my thoughts and give my eyes that shiny glaze of another place and time, because, well, neither of them is here with me now, at the University of Alabama.
My mother- my real, true, biological mother- is like a dream to me. I had her for eleven years of my life, and I remain adamant that all of my redeeming qualities, anything that makes me good and true and generous and fierce, came from her. She had the extraordinary ability to create contagious laughter, whether she was trying to induce it or not. I have her high forehead, her chestnut locks, and her shine of mischievousness in my eyes. She taught me that you have two options when life starts throwing things at you: you can laugh, or you can cry. And, so, quite frequently, my mother would laugh off the disasters of her world, from the Christmas tree that collapsed in the middle of the night to my father’s alcoholism. She was certain that as long as she remained upbeat, she could overcome these calamities, and her laughter gave her the determination to stand back up. And then, one sunny Saturday morning in May, my mother would not wake up. It took a long time, a strong will, and another mother before I could laugh again.
I was utterly heartbroken in the years following the loss of my mom. I was angry at God for taking her and her for leaving. My relationship with my father deteriorated to the point of no return, it seemed, and I sank into depression. And then, my mother lifted me out. When I was 13 and my father was in jail for driving under the influence, and my stepmother had abandoned my little sister and me, my brother offered a beacon of hope: I could move in with him, his wife, Lori, and their children. They were fresh out of the teenage years at the ripe age of 25, but they took in a dejected teenager, and they refused to give up on me. More importantly, Lori gave me what I was sure I would never experience again: a real mother. Lori was not my mother; she was not even biologically connected to me. However, she loved me in a way that blurred all of those lines. She performed the mundane tasks of mothering, from folding my laundry to taking me to the orthodontist, and these things never seemed trivial to me. I marveled in her love as she insisted on taking pictures before the first day of school and included me in the family Christmas card. Most importantly, she helped me climb out of the canyon I had fallen into. She encouraged me to build a relationship with my father, and held me as he disappointed me again and again. I accredit everything good that I became this mother of mine, who never really had to be mine at all.
My mom holds my past: black and white fleeting images of my childhood that still occasionally make me ache to my core with missing. Lori holds my present, and my future, and the most beautiful part is that she never even had to take that on: she just did. And although there are bittersweet days, like my birthday, my graduation, or simply a beautiful day when my mom would have said, “Let’s go driving!” that I think “I wish my mama was here,” I can turn, and see Lori, and realize that she is- I believe Lori is the mother my own mom would have picked for me.
And after all, my mother is my hero.
I wrote that essay back in September, for a scholarship application, and here, writing a “Mother’s Day” post, I felt it said everything I needed to say. I’ve talked about my mom a lot here, and maybe that’s because talking about it to real people with real faces brings out real emotions that aren’t so easy to handle, but I like to think it’s just because writing it down is the easiest way for me to even begin to sort through all of it in the first place. But my point is, you guys are not strangers to the reality that is my heart for my mother- both of them.
You should know, then, that while I tend to let my emotions run when I start typing, I promise I really am a happy, adjusted, laughing girl who’s accepted most everything that’s come my way- even if it has taken time. And I’m here to say that the old “time heals” adage is true; this Mother’s Day is the first I can remember that didn’t bring any rain with it. I certainly remembered my mother; I definitely missed her. I wished she was here, absolutely. But I wasn’t sad. I didn’t keep glancing at the clocking, waiting for Monday to roll around so people would stop giving me those sentimental looks. I didn’t consider crying three times during the church service. I was absolutely a-ok, and it took me by surprise. I wasn’t used to that free feeling, the one that escapes the clutches of grief and longing and jealousy. It was a beautiful day, and I soaked up every moment of it.
Let me tell you, people: The sunshine felt good.