I’d always been a die-hard daddy’s girl growing up. My dad and I were so much alike that our bond came naturally and with an ease that few daughters are lucky to understand. He was so cool. While my mom worked on the weekends, he’d take us to hole-in-the-wall diners with questionable sanitary conditions. Sometimes he’d take us to the flea market, give us five bucks, and let us loose. Most times we’d drive through downtown and settle at one of the parks for the day, or the giant water fountain if it was hot enough. Everything felt like an adventure when it was just us and our dad. He was the king of cheap thrills and he was always laid back. Things were different with my mom around. As a kid, I remember her presence was more tense. She wasn’t going to bust balls to make it to my soccer game. She was always the anxious parent at the pool who’d conditioned herself to keep two eyes on six kids, or the frantic woman at the park who couldn’t relax; my little sister has a severe allergy to bees and my mom would be damned if the EpiPen wasn’t an arms length away. For many years, it was my dad I’d call to chat with, my dad I’d go out to dinner with, my dad I’d travel with. It was always my dad.
But I’ll never forget the day my relationship changed between my mom and I forever. I was 20 years old when I came home from work in a frenzy, tears flowing, my world shaking with fear and uncertainty. It was one of the worst days of my life. I ran straight up to my sister’s room and confided in her what I should have told my mom first. My mom had been on my tail as soon as I’d walked in the house, and I still remember her standing in the door way to my sister’s room watching me cry. Her eyes were big with worry, “what is it, Rachel? What’s wrong?” I told her, “I’m… pregnant!” followed by another round of convulsive crying. Her face relaxed slightly and she looked unconcerned. “That’s it? I thought someone died” she said.
For the next several weeks, I was sure that I was going to have an abortion and I scheduled an appointment with Planned Parenthood. In the weeks leading up to it, my mom struck up a few discussions, gently encouraging me to consider all options, but making it clear that she would support any decision I made. She didn’t press me, and when the time came, we drove to the appointment together. The waiting room was vast. It was full of girls my age. I remember thinking that none of them looked as scared or unsure as I’d felt. Hours passed as we waited; I was looking at the book in my hand but couldn’t comprehend any of the words on it’s pages. And then it hit me. A sudden wave of clarity crashed over me, and I burst into tears as I turned to my mom, breaking the silence. I told her I couldn’t go through with it, that I could never go through it. I got up. Approaching the front desk, I tapped on the glass window and told the clerk that I’d changed my mind. She refunded my money, and told me that I still had to get an ultrasound and watch the instructional video visually detailing the abortion process. My mom and I held hands and watched, relieved when we were walking down the commercial building’s hallway toward the exit. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of that place. In the car on the way home my mom told me she was proud of me.
My pregnancy was a defining chapter in regards to the development of the relationship I have with my mom today. Being so young, single, and broke with no direction, I was in a lot of pain emotionally and mentally. I was afraid that my life was over before it’d begun. I was devastated that I’d never get to travel again, and that I’d never have another boyfriend. I was terrified to give birth and to take care of a baby all alone. My mom was the constant reassurance that it was all nonsense and nothing was going to change, not really, and that there wasn’t anything to be scared of. She seemed to be the only person who understood me, and she became my safe place.
That was just the beginning.
I always tell people that I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to make “it” up to my mom. I cringe when I think about how long, and what circumstances it took for me to realize who my mom really was and what role she’d played my entire life. I’ve said and done some awful things to her in my day; I can’t recall exactly, but she probably could. I never wanna know.
What I was incapable of actualizing until I started to raise my own child is how much my mom loves me. I mean, really loves me. How her joy is measured by the sheer pride she has for me. How her worrying was a product of the constant guilt that lingers on a mother’s conscious at all times, never wavering, for fear of something unspeakable happening to me, her child. How she never doubted me, but always quietly trusted me to experience life and learn lessons in unconventional ways. How she’s never shown me disapproval for something I felt passionate about, even when I was trimming weed on a ganja farm in the Sierra Nevada mountains. How all she’s ever wanted for me is to be happy.
It’s difficult to admit, but having become a mother myself has truly humanized my own mom in my eyes. Knowing and experiencing firsthand the trials and tribulations of raising my son puts everything into perspective for me. The true dynamic of a family. The pain of seeing him in pain. The overwhelming feeling of love that I have for him for merely existing. The dignity and difficulty of caring for him day-in and day-out with no expectations in return. The unrelenting ambition to fulfill his desires no matter what the cost. It’s all there for me, and it was always there for my mom. It was always my mom.
I love you, mom. You deserve every day.