My mom was always the quintessential mama. When my sister and I were young, she was a stay-at-home mom. Family dinners every night. Baked goods always on the counter. My sister and I painting on our easels, construction paper crafts, homemade play dough and cookie cutters. Friday nights were 'movie nights', which meant pop and chips and picking out a movie from the library. We'd get into our pj's (my mom would often dress the dog up too), get cozy, and watch Disney.
We had a wonderful childhood, and I always knew that my mom was a great mom. It wasn't until I had a little girl of my own, though, that I realized just how amazing she was.
When my mom died, I was 15 - years and years away from thinking about having kids. When I got engaged, picked out a wedding dress, got married, it was difficult, but the longing for my mom was never so strong as when I found out I was pregnant. The sadness was palpable - I remember thinking "how am I going to do this without her?" There were so many questions I wanted to ask. When the morning sickness turned into all-day sickness and lasted my entire pregnancy, I wondered if she, too, had struggled with the feeling of being perpetually hungover for nine months. As I slathered oil on my expanding belly, I wondered if she too worried about stretch marks. Did she have to keep a bottle of tums beside her bed to chew in the middle of the night? Did it take her breath away the first time she felt her baby kick? (I remember the moment so clearly - I was in a meeting at work, and let out a little yelp, followed by a giggle under my breath.) So many questions were unanswered as I navigated through my pregnancy. I, of course, had amazing friends, my mom's sisters and my grandmother who remembered a lot and were able to answer questions for me, my amazing mother-in-law. But, it wasn't the same. As I got ready to deliver my first baby, I thought of my mom almost constantly.
Then, little Aurora Gillian arrived, and I felt completely and utterly clueless. Those first few weeks were difficult, as we got to know our new daughter and she got to know us. There was so much I felt I didn't know. So much advice I felt I'd missed, having my mom taken away as a teenager.
As time has gone on, though, most of that sadness has been replaced by a quiet peacefulness. I've settled into my role as a mom. And, in those moments when Rory falls asleep on my chest, her breathing rhythmic and calming, I realize that even though my mom's not here, she has prepared me for motherhood.
The memories of my mom come through in small moments with my daughter. The other night, rubbing Vicks Vapo-Rub on my her chest to give her some relief from a cold, I thought of my own mom, my head in her lap, as she did exactly the same thing to me. Preparing for Rory's first birthday party, people told me I was crazy to go to so much trouble for a one year-old. Again, I thought of my mom, getting ready for our birthday parties, making sure everything fit the theme - the cake had to match the pinata and the treat bags, and the games (turns out, she was a little bit insane too). When I'm having a silly moment with Rory, I think of my mom, and how my sister and I used to tell her she was a 'weird mom.' Her silly voices, her wild laugh, the way she would get so excited about her own practical jokes that she would ruin them way before the punchline. Trying to learn my sister's dance moves and taking four steps before ending up on her ass on the floor.
The other day, I was walking around the kitchen with Rory in my arms, getting her dinner ready, explaining everything to her in my best Julia Child voice. "You're weird," said Damien with a laugh as he walked through the kitchen. I don't think he quite realized how much his passing comment meant to me.
Although my mom left us far too early to give me any concrete parenting advice, she taught me something far more important. She taught me to work hard. She taught me to go all in, to feel things deep down in my bones, to trust my gut, to be patient, to be gentle, but also to be wild and silly and out of control sometimes too. She taught me about passion, she taught me about the importance of family. Most of all, she taught me about the deep, unconditional love that our kids bring us.
Through her wonderful ways, through the memories that surface when I least expect them, and even though she's been gone for almost 20 years, my mom continues to teach me how to be a mother.