Tuesday, May 5, 2015
I was thinking about my Mom this morning, as I got ready. I thought about all the times I watched her get ready, my little girl hands reaching up to her rose pink jewelry box, tasseled drawers that held layers and layers of treasures inside. Turquoise and silver and gold. I can see my mother's makeup bag- the Avon eyeshadows with the tiny sponge applicators, the lipsticks in red and pink and purple, the chalky blushes and sharpened lip liners. I can see her Kiehl's Rosewater, the Elizabeth Taylor perfume bottles sitting on her dresser, and a magnifying mirror lit up.
It was never a thing though- appearance. My Mom was a hippie at heart, growing food in our backyard, washing clothes and hanging them on the line, and when I think of her back then I just remember her smile and her short hair and her laughing eyes. She was someone who always did her own thing, but did it in such a quiet way that I never realized she was doing so until much later, looking back.
Throughout my childhood my Mom had severe psoriasis that covered a lot of her arms and legs. Sometimes people would look. Sometimes people would say something, or ask questions. My Mom didn't make a big deal about it- she would wear shorts and tank tops and bathing suits without care. But I remember being fiercely protective of her, and it bothered me when people would look. Or say something, or ask those questions. She never seemed sad about it though, and would tell my sister and me, "This is not who I am, this is just my appearance. Let people think what they want."
Many years later my mother battled breast cancer. I can still remember her whispering to me- "I have something to tell you," the rest of the conversation echoey in my mind as she talked and talked, the words dropping one by one into some hollow place inside of my chest. She beat the cancer, but lost both of her breasts in the process. Instead of having reconstructive surgery my Mom elected to just remove them, and be done with it. She has two scars where her breasts once were.
I'm not sure, even seven years ago, that I recognized what a statement that was. I see it now though, and as I get older it's almost as if my Mom has become this living pool of inspiration for me. I can pull out more and more, and the closer I get to her, the more I see myself in the reflection.
I think about her asking me if I wanted any of her bras, because she wouldn't need them anymore. How she wouldn't want them anymore. Then she's laying in bed, post-op, bags attached to her chest, and I'm getting her water. I think about after, standing there in the bathroom with her as she asked if I wanted to see the scars, if it bothered me to see her this way. And I look at my Mom now, many years later, on the floor playing with her grandchildren.
Time moves quickly when you look at it backwards. Rewinding and fast-forwarding, the Avon and perfume bottles, little hands reaching up, watching her apply mascara that smelled like flowers, slipping on chunky bracelet after bracelet. And here we are.
I can see now how all of the choices in my mother's life- all of the ways she has led by very quiet example, molded me into who I am today. "This is not who I am, this is just my appearance. Let people think what they want," has become woven into the very fabric of who I am. My mother has taught me that, more than anything, I am enough. She told me this, but more so, has shown me.
When everything else is stripped away, when I'm left with just the very essence of who I am, I know that this person is beautiful and important and valuable. This is what my Mom has taught me, and what I hope to pass along to my boys as well.
I am forever grateful for the greatest example of self-love I've ever had.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you.