I held my mom up on a pedestal until the month before I got married. I was 27 and just about a year into my San Francisco adventure after having left Jersey and the only life I’d ever known.
My mom came alone to California for a visit. I was processing a lot of overwhelming emotions. We had limited space in our apartment but we were hosting my mom and Cassidy’s two brothers. Cassidy’s co-ed live music bachelor party was happening during the visits and there were rehearsals and nerves and all kinds of insanity. I was nervous about getting married and I had daily stomachaches over that. I was also trying to be a good host and take my mom to my favorite places as well as a roadtrip to Point Reyes so that we could delight in warm sun, empty beaches and baby seals. My grandmother had fallen and hurt herself and we were both nervous about that. I was so flustered about everything that I drove the wrong way down a one way street in Chinatown, with traffic coming directly at us. Luckily, I was born with a natural tendency to be great in crisis situations so I didn’t bat an eye. I just pulled over, waved an apology to oncoming traffic and pulled onto a two-way street. I think my mom was impressed with me.
I, however, was not impressed with her. She has never had a good sense of direction and couldn’t figure out where we were in relation to…anything. I actually drew her a map to get her to a Curves studio two blocks from my house. I could say, “The direction of the sunset!” and it wouldn’t ring a bell. I could say, “We went there last night” and I’d be met with a confused, “Yeah, so?” I could even say, “Walk out the door, turn left, then turn right, then turn right.” and it didn’t work. She’s very visual so I drew a map. It was the first time I’d ever felt such a growing frustration with my mom. She had been my superhero since I was born. I was so upset that I was upset. But I was even more annoyed that she was only human. Unfortunately, I didn’t hold back this cutting remark: “How on earth do you get by in life like this?” I’m actually just as ridiculous sometimes at driving through unknown cities. Plant me in the country or the suburbs and my sense of direction is top-notch. Put me in a new city and I become a bumbling fool. I should have understood what she was going through. I didn’t at all.
I was so mad at her for growing older. I was so mad at her for letting me grow older and get married and turn an already increasing physical distance, into a somewhat emotional distance. Who would I call if I was stranded on a highway with a flat tire? Well, I suppose I’d call AAA. And after that, I’d call my husband. I wouldn’t call my parents. This scared me.
Throughout life, I have greeted every problem in my life with, “If I can’t figure it out, I’ll go to my mom.” I have greeted every obstacle in my life with, “If I can’t remove this obstacle, my mom can.” I have greeted every dream in my life with, “If I can’t turn this dream into a reality, my mom can help me.” This couldn’t last forever. My mom knew that. For one, eventually, eventually (like when she’s 110), she will no longer be here. For another, I had already flown out of my Jersey nest and I was clumsily flying and falling, flying and falling. I knew that no matter how far I flew, she was still safely in my old nest and I could fly back to her, squawking and peeping and opening my mouth for food. I wasn’t flying as well as I could on my own. I wasn’t soaring. Not even close.
I also needed her to cure my stomachaches. She’s always been into spiritual work and I thought she could just take away the nausea for me and I wouldn’t have to do a thing. Writing in notebooks, breathing exercises and crying fits weren’t cutting it. I never asked for her help but I was mad that she didn’t magically know I was ailing and fix it for me. It was the first time I had ever had an anxiety attack (or several) in front of her. She had always felt so safe to me, I never imagined I’d lose my sh*t in front of her. I was so angry that it happened. I was in over my head. I wasn’t really mad at my mom. I was really mad at myself for not feeling strong enough to fight the anxiety better.
Except for a reiki session or two that she has given me for my occasional nerves (worked wonderfully), she has helped my anxiety just by being in my life. And she has helped it by not always being in my life because the distance has given me the tools to function very well with my husband and my daughter as my new immediate family.
My daughter is friendly and brightly says, “Hi!” to everyone she meets. She will be friendly and warm and open because I am friendly and warm and open (for the most part…) I am friendly and warm and open because my mom is friendly and warm and open. I get down on myself a lot but I am a lot of things good in this life because of my mom. My daughter will be a lot of things good in her life, partly due to my mom.
Mom, I just wanted to tell you: You’re still a superhero to me. My daughter makes me realize just how much you are.
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