Some of my most vivid memories exist under the Magnolia tree in Burlington, NC.
We left that house when I was 4, but when I think about my childhood, that small chapter of my life is so clear. Some of the simplest things my parents did affected me deeply during that time. We lived in a small town and there was no internet. They planted a huge garden in the back yard and I developed a love for squash! They set up a microphone for my 4th birthday and all of my friends got up on the “stage” and heard their little voices amplified. I stood there equal parts party dress and muddy skinned knees from playing outside with the boys. My favorite toy was my Fisher-Price record player and we listened to “We are the World” on repeat. My sweet little brother was born. We planted a little tree, “my tree,” in the front yard. Ironically, here I am in my hotlanta shirt, representing the city I live in now after many years of living far away from my parents.
What a magical little chapter of my family’s story, full of new beginnings, new life, and just a little opening into what would unfold. We have all lived so much life since then. There is no way that little four year old who ate mint off the tree and daydreamed in the dirt could ever comprehend what would lie ahead.
But that’s the thing, right? That’s it! That’s life. All of the flavors, all of the chapters, and being brave enough to jump in with a little mustard seed of faith.
Nobody does this better than my mother. She just dances right off of that little cliff and swims with broad strokes, laughter, and eyes to the sky. My mom. My friend. She’s the one who embarrassed me with huge movie star glasses and a purple mini van in elementary school, calling my name in the carpool lane. She’s the one who wore jumpsuits and ankle boots made by artists and a big blond side ponytail. She’s the one who sang in our home. She’s the one who started her own business over 25 years ago; walking to the bank to get a loan in 1977, the UNC Marching Band passed her on the street playing the Rocky Theme song. She got the loan. She has charisma, chutzpah, guts, and a big generous heart. Magic follows her. She is fun, up for anything, compassionate, and giving, and I feel 100% confident introducing her to friends at a party. She is loved.
I’m now an adult, and my mom and I have traversed a whole bunch of chapters together. The one when we drove across the country together like Thelma and Louise. The ones when we fought more than usual because she gave me some of that fiery DNA and southern sass and strong will. The funny thing is, just as fast as the fire ignited, the laughter and ease would follow, and we’d be planning our next adventure. The fire would burn up and out and a new seed of a new moment would take root, becoming the first words of a new chapter. As I have gotten older, I have come to appreciate not only my mother’s will and grit and sense of humor, but the fact that she is always there at the end of the battle. It doesn’t matter if that battle is between us when I was an angsty teenager or when the battle was losing someone we loved. She is there. She is fiercely loyal. She is honest about her feelings and her struggles. She is intensely private when it comes to her close knit group of friends and especially her family.
Everyone knows the fun side of my mom, the beautiful side, and the artistic side. I am lucky, though. She’s a character in every chapter of my life, even the ones which are hard to read. Sometimes jumping off the cliff means conquering a dream and sometimes it means an unleashed ugly cry. Sometimes it means just staying through the storm. Thank you, Mom for all of your lightness and goodness and fun and faith. When I imagine your face, my sense memory lives in dance, song, laughter, delicious food, expression and celebration! When I ask myself how to honor you, my heart says to say thank you for showing me your humanity. So, thank you. Thank you for admitting your mistakes and your shortcomings and for apologizing. Thank you for always telling us when real and difficult things were happening. Thank you for making us feel like you would sit with us through those difficult times. Thank you for being on our team and going to bat for us over the years. Thank you for being brave enough to speak at Papaw’s funeral even though you say “you aren’t good with words.” Thank you for choosing inspiring people with integrity to befriend; they have become my second moms and dads and shaped who I am. They were the village for this little girl. Thank you for showing me how to hold space for a friend who has experienced a great loss. Thank you for mourning openly in front of me when you experienced a great loss. Thank you for accepting me fully, for helping me to surrender and believe in the unseen, and for believing in my goodness and ability to add something of value to the world. I’m so lucky to know you so well, to learn from your wisdom, and to be your daughter. May I honor you by keeping my heart open to let in all the joy and when the pain comes, may I clasp my fingers around the hands of those I love, weathering the storm with the grace and grit you gave me.
To read more about my super cool mom, check out her website: Possibilities Boutique
Photo at top: film still from Thelma & Louise the movie