Mama is in Red River NM. My parents spend their summers as campground hosts at River Ranch. Every summer is different for them, but, for the most part, they love it. I went out to visit the first year they were there, and I was so thrilled to see the little community they had. There were several other couples their age, and they had a pot luck every Monday night. They work a couple of days a week, and the rest of the time they travel around the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado having fun. It’s snowing when they get there in May, and it’s snowing when they leave in October. They miss the brutal Louisiana summers that my Dad has come to hate. The point is, I haven’t seen Mama on Mother’s Day for many years. But, that’s okay. She’s not into all that stuff anyway. She loves being Linda and doing her thing.
Mama taught me some of my favorite things. She is a voracious reader. In fact, she confided to me when I was older that she read to escape the craziness of being a young mother with four kids. She got married at 17. She had an 18 inch waist. I don’t think I’ve ever had an 18 inch waist. She was a 50s teen who had a lot of fun. I won’t tell her crazy stories, but she had some. She was no goody too-shoes. I suppose I may have gotten that rebellious streak from her. In fact, as a teenager I got in trouble a few times because I let something slip or told on myself. In private, she would chide me, “You get in trouble because you tell on yourself.” She’d roll her eyes. I wondered what kind of exciting things she hasn’t told. Maybe it’s time I sat down and found out some of the stories I haven’t heard from her. Anyway, she got married really young, and they lived with my grandparents until they built a house on the family property. Her life was to be a mother and wife. So, reading was her escape. It was her window into the world. She told me that when all of us were screaming and crying, and she was tired of it all, she’d grab a book and just let us cry. It was her opportunity to be somebody else. And, her reading has taught her so much. She is smarter and more well-rounded than many Ph.D.s I know. She loves history and story, and she’s always reading still. We joke about our book addiction. Now, she reads a great blog everyday! 🙂
I was a grown-up child until I had my rebel stage as a teenager. My favorite thing to do was to hang out with Mama. She was my best friend. She was my first girlfriend. She drank coffee, so I learned to drink coffee. We’d sit and talk about all kinds of things over coffee. As the oldest, I was probably the closest to a grown-up in our household. I don’t know how she remembers those conversations, but I know how I do. I felt so grownup and cool. Mama was at home all the time, so we always had visitors. My cousin Marilyn was a mainstay. She and Mama hung out a lot, and Marilyn was crazy. I loved listening to them. They were my first glimpse into young womanhood. And, I think Marilyn kept Mama in her youth. I know they laughed all the time. My Aunt Shirley was another one who came by frequently. She was Mama’s oldest sibling, and she had four kids of her own. But, Aunt Shirley drank tea. So, we’d have tea instead of coffee. Mama went to great care to make sure she made the tea special for Aunt Shirley. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with them and learning what it meant to be a woman and a mother. And, the mainstay was always a cup of something hot and soothing. It was the catalyst for something fabulous and intimate. It’s why I find it so hard to give up my coffee. It’s a ritual. It’s not a drink.
Mama taught me about style and about being a girl. Her favorite saying was, “You have to suffer to be beautiful.” She is a redhead, and she was a looker in her day. She’s still beautiful, but she was something else in her younger days with that flaming red hair and pale complexion. And, my Dad was a open admirer of redheads. He loves them and their fiery, quick tempers. I embraced my Auburn locks knowing that some men are really into redheads. When I was about 13, I really started developing. I had boobs in the fifth grade. I was a tomboy growing up, so I dressed like a boy and was very comfortable with that. I came home from school one day, and Mama had gone shopping….. for me. She had all of these pretty, girly, figure-flattering clothes laid out on the bed to show me. It was a rite of passage for me. It wasn’t long before I started shaving my legs, and I remember her arguing with Daddy about it. He didn’t want me to grow up with all that implied, and she was trying to usher me into my new world. She taught me it was okay to be a girl and to embrace the changes that go on within my body. She’s still doing it today as, once again, my body is changing. She is the person that tells me what’s next. She is my teacher in being a woman.
My Dad was an athlete, but Mama was an inspiration to me in working out and keeping herself in shape. I remember she gained a lot of weight at one point, and she went on her first diet. She did Weight Watchers way back when. I remember watching her embrace her new, healthier lifestyle and loving it. She was so excited to share the good things she could eat and still lose weight. She got back to a normal weight and is always trying to be healthy. Like me, she struggles from time to time and has to get back on track, but she sticks with it. In her 70s, I often call in the middle of her strength-training workout. Her dedication to good health and fitness has helped make it a mainstay in my life. It’s like brushing my teeth, I just do it.
There are things I picked up from Mama that were not right for me, and we’ve talked openly about those. She lived in a day where women didn’t have the choices or opportunities I have. I struggled with the guilt around making those choices. At times, our relationship has struggled because of my struggles. At times, our relationship has struggled because of her own personal struggles. But, there is so much more that I’ve learned from Mama that is more important. I’ve learned that the best part of the day is to sit down with a friend over a cup of coffee and laugh and move in and out of intimacy. I’ve learned that I want a man that thinks I’m beautiful and embraces my quick wit and temper. I’ve learned that reading is an easy, quick escape and an avenue for broadening my horizons. I’ve learned that it’s okay to try to be beautiful and step into my own style. I’ve learned that life sucks sometimes, and I have to somehow muddle through. I don’t know how women make it without their mothers, and my heart goes out to them. If I hadn’t had her to watch, I have no idea who I’d be today.
Thanks, Mama. Happy Mother’s Day to all you Moms out there. You are teaching all us gals how to navigate our worlds. It’s important work.