What I love about her is that when I couldn't come up with a Halloween costume one year she somehow got me on board with being Charlie Chaplin. And then she made the costume and then continued to tout the idea enough that I actually found myself at school, in second grade, dressed like Charlie Chaplin. I like to think that experience helped give me the foundation for my sense of humor and my love of quirkiness.
She coached my softball team, she drove me to gymnastics, she forgot what time gymnastics was over once and she felt so bad for picking me up half an hour late that we got McDonald's for lunch. She took care of me and my two brothers while working full time as a nurse. Every weekend was spent at swim meets, soccer tournaments, horse shows, whatever it was that we were involved in, giving us pep talks and pointers, cheering us on. Looking back at it now I wonder how she managed to do all of it, and I know for a fact that I didn't thank her nearly enough nor did I pay any attention to her needing some down time.
She also took the time to make sure I was an independent person, something that I truly appreciated. When I was a teenager she accidentally bleached a pair of my jeans after a few failed attempts at getting me to do my own laundry. I was so upset. How could she bleach my jeans after ALL those thousands of loads of laundry she must have done in her life? She was a pro! I angrily told her that she was never going to do my laundry again, that she was forbidden from touching it at all to make sure there weren't any more accidents. I give her credit for not laughing out loud during the whole thing, and I really hope she at least patted herself on the back for pulling that one off.
When I was in high school, a friend of mine passed away unexpectedly. I was home, in bed when it happened, but the police came to our door at 2am, asking for me. My mom knew I was home, and they told her, and she came upstairs and told me. We drove to the police station, much of it a blur to me now. What I do remember is my mom telling me an analogy, that however far I went out into panic or grief, that I would always have the lighthouse of her support to help me find my way back. I was in such a state, such a haze, so scared, but her voice anchored me. It helped me stay close to where I needed to be. But she didn't try to convince me that everything was okay, either. It was almost like she sent me out away from the ship on purpose, in my little rowboat, to be able to find my own way back again through the storm. And I did. But I know if I didn't, she would have dived in head first to find me, to bring me back.
As the youngest, I was the last to move out, and I missed her like crazy. My first Valentine's Day away from home she knew I wasn't in the best spirits, I had just broken up with a boyfriend, and I was just over being away, it was dreary. She sent me flowers, and the card said "To my Little Valentine who is away from home". I am sure the intended response was a smile, but instead I sobbed. I full on sobbed, because I missed her that much. Because she had thought of me. Because I was still her little Valentine. I still have that card, and I love finding it when I go through my old things. Now it makes me smile rather than sob.
Things I have gotten from my mom: a great sense of style, a love of Estate Sales, a talent for Jeopardy, my super straight hair, my cheekbones, and my mild road rage. Things I wish I had gotten from my mom: her Bob Vila-like talent to be able to fix almost anything, her incredible strength and hard working attitude, her ability to keep calm under almost any situation. One year I spent some time living in Prague, and at the tail end of my stay there my mom came to visit, and we flew home together. Right after we took off, the plane was struck by lightning. We heard this incredible BOOM and saw a bright flash from the back of the plane and everyone flipped out. I started crying. I'm not a "good flyer" to begin with, and it was terrifying. No one said anything, not the pilot, not the stewardesses, no one. The woman next to me put her head between her legs, another woman started praying. I remember clearly thinking to myself "At least we just took off so we don't have that far to fall". I was terrified. I looked over at my mom and she just took my hand and smiled. "It's going to be fine" she said, with this big smile on her face. I barely got myself together, but her being there kept me from totally losing it. A few minutes later the pilot came on and explained what had happened, and that we would be fine. I asked my mom how she knew the plane had been struck by lightning, how she knew we were fine. "I didn't know, I just didn't want you to panic", and she later admitted that she was as terrified as I was, I would never have guessed.
I love, love, love you Mom. More than these words can convey, you mean the world to me, and I cherish each day we get to laugh at our inside jokes (read any good O. Henry lately mom?), to argue about which route is the fastest to Stewart's from your house, to watch Jeopardy, to hunt vintage sales, to be together. Your style has shaped my style, your story has shaped my story, I am a good mom because you are a truly loving, caring, strong, thoughtful, and intelligent parent. I adore you. If I can ever convey that enough, that would make me smile. Now don't read this too close to when I see you, because we'll both cry. But I love you mom. I beg of you, don't ever think for a second that you weren't the best mother I could have ever wanted. I'm a lucky girl, and the kids are lucky to have you as a Nina. They will be lucky if I can live up to your example, and I intend to try my hardest. Now, hopefully our windshield wipers won't fail tomorrow as we go to brunch, if they do, I owe you an "oda". xoxo