Mom.

Flowers have always made me think of my Mom. Any city, state, or country I’m in–I take photos of flowers and send them to her. If there’s a photo of a flower in my phone, I’ve sent it. Beautiful, fragile, smells good (or not at all), vibrant, weird, defiant; I’ll always associate flowers with her.

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I’ve been home for Mother’s Day once since I was 21. 22 I was in Morocco, 23 in Oklahoma, 24 in Arkansas, 25 I was actually home because I was in that transition 2 weeks before Korea, 26 & 27 in Korea, 28-30 in Chicago.

I remember as a kid that we always tried to do something to surprise our Mom. Countless sloshes of Lipton tea on the carpet trying to sneak up the stairs, flowers we’d cut out of her own flowerbed (lovingly frowned upon, but allowed because it’s the thought that counts) and trying to quietly clank dishes we as we attempted to make an edible breakfast.

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It’s strange to think of where my Mom was at 30. 3 kids (9, 6 and not-quite 3) and somehow keeping us all fed and clothed and the house in order and still kept flowers alive. Now that I’m 30 I realize a thimbleful of the sheer force of will and emotional labor that takes–and I say that as someone looking in, not someone who has lived through it.

I get frustrated at my own proclivity for laundry procrastination–I can’t imagine raising a 9-year old curious, sports-loving boy, a 6-year old bookworm who regularly stole all the batteries in the house to read books by flashlight under her blankets *raises hand* and a 2-year old who ate 97% Cheerios for breakfast-lunch-dinner (the other 3% was just milk in a glass). I would have had leashes on us in 30 seconds.

Balancing us and Dad and her own life and parents and groceries and church and cleaning house and a dog must have been hard. I never saw it though. I can break into tears at the mere thought of an Olympian ‘chasing their dreams’ commercial on NBC, but I don’t really remember my Mom crying often as a kid. Except for when I broke her mixing bowl trying to get my whole head in it to lick the bowl. That was a bad one.

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I outgrew my 5’3″ Mom in 5th grade and figured that was the end of looking like her. My coloring is my Dad, my height is my Dad, my humor is my Dad’s. If you see a picture of my Dad, it’s so clear. There was no hospital mix up. It’s harder for me to see my Mom in me. Other than our eye color (#teamhazel), there’s not as much physical resemblance as my other sisters have. She is small and rocks things with heels & pink & ruffles and I wear a size 11 shoe and own so many sweatshirts that I might/probably/definitely have a hoarding problem.

But sometimes I see it my actions rather than my body. I see my Mom in me when I do that laugh-so-hard-I-can’t-breathe-and-might-need-to-step-out-to-pee. I see my Mom when I grab someone else’s plate as I clean up. I see my Mom when I do a job until it’s done, even if it’s a gross/boring/mindless thing. I see my Mom in how I fold shirts and towels and socks. I see her in how I cook food or throw tupperware haphazardly in the cupboard and shut the door to not see the disorganization. I hear my Mom in every harmony I sing and every time Fur Elise plays anywhere–in an elevator, on a ring tone, in a store.

Sometimes I buy flowers for my house and it feels like a piece of her is here. I made spaghetti tonight and I could hear her telling me to shake in more dried onion. I’ll put on makeup and hear her imploring me to put a little color on my lips rather than just chapstick.

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It feels selfish to say I miss my Mom when I know I’m the one who leaves. I see my Mom 2, maybe 3 times a year if I’m lucky, and that is 100% on me and my itchy feet. But despite my choices, my Mom is always there at the airport (except when I surprise her). She is always going to pull my head onto her lap and run her fingers through my hair, no matter how grown I am. She is thoughtful and caring and tough in ways I will never know.

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There’s a lilac tree under my Mom’s window. It used to be in the flower mound at our old house, and that smell will always be home and Mom to me. There’s a lilac tree down the street from me in Chicago, on the walk home from the grocery store. I forgot about it until today. Spring is a little late in Chicago, what with it still snowing less than a month ago.

I stopped under the lilac tree this afternoon–which must have just recently bloomed–holding all my groceries. It’s perfectly the same. Exactly the same shade and smell. There was a plump purple bunch just above me. I pushed on my toes and closed my eyes and felt a raindrop from the earlier storm roll down my cheek as my nose touched the blooms and my whole body felt like I was home. Sitting under my Mom’s window, feeling the Washington rain and my heart wanted her near.

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If you are with your Mom today, squeeze her tight. I know I’ll get to FaceTime mine and hear that some of these aforementioned memories aren’t fully formed or that I gave her too much credit. My Mom is gorgeous, a dynamo, a force. She is short and beautiful and tough and loves her 3 grand babies and is cute as a bug rocking her bluetooth headphones.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I’ll love you forever and like you for always. I’m probably going to go stand under that lilac tree with my eyes closed, loudly sniffing until the owner sends his pet duck (yes, you read that right) out to shoo me away.

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