Today this girl has a birthday. She is my Mama, but right here, she is just a teenager with terrible bangs and a great duffle coat that did not get saved for her first born. She might even be married already here. 17 when she got married, 21 when she had me. Perspective - at my age right now she had a 12 year old. Perspective again - I had my twenties all to myself. It was awesome.
She tells me at least once a month that I was a beautiful baby; strangers on the street would stop her and tell her so. So, it's practically fact. Fact two - I have an extremely unflattering photo of her, 8 months pregnant with me, exhausted, with a bowl haircut. I chose to post this one instead. Because she may be the World's Best Mom (verified and signed off on by Hallmark) but I'm also a pretty damn good daughter. My first birthday she made homemade bread sculptures of Winnie the Pooh characters. That's some 70s craftiness right there. I also never ate canned baby food, going from boob to bananas.
We lived in White Rock in a small red bungalow when I was in elementary school. She would bomb into the driveway each night after work in her little Honda. Her dental office was just around the corner, with long hallways where Koleman and I would hurl bouncy balls around, and race office chairs side by side. The parking lot I learned to drive a stick in, nearly taking out a power pole when I didn't know what she meant by screaming "Yard it, YARD IT!" She ran back then, still does. One day she was flashed near an elementary school; had an actual penis waggled in front of her. Instead of cowering or panicking, she immediately chased this asshole down, booting after him to where his car was parked and banging on his windows. I told that story to approximately 700 kids, loving their reaction, but especially my effing brave as nails Mama.
She worked so very hard when we were little. Koleman and I were the OG latch key kids, but like true young nerds, we spent our alone time reading and cooking dinner for her. My favourite "recipe" - chicken with a jar of that sweet n sour sauce dumped on top, all on top of a mound of white rice. She gained extra Saturday sleep by the grace of Pee Wee's Playhouse and chunks of frozen apple she slid into the freezer the night before that we would gnaw on until noon. Sundays we drove out to Aldergrove and had roast beef dinner with her parents, my Gramma and Grandpa Henderson. She preferred the meat and gravy while I would scarf down the mashed potatoes smothered in butter and tartar sauce. Koleman would just wait for the terrible canned fruit salad cherries that we fought over like they were nuggets of gold.
The only thing I ever dared give her shit for was the tanning. Laying on a thin towel on our paint-chipped back deck, a hand towel covering her chest and two ripped off pieces of cardboard over her closed eyelids. Hours would pass. She'd come stumbling in the house, half blind and sweaty, to thirstily suck down a few swigs of pop, exclaim how hot it was, then head back out. Some years, it was very very hot. And orange. (You can't fuck with my shirt here. Swag from my Dad's movie reviewing job, I only recently gave it to goodwill, cracked and torn.)
The only money I made as a teenager, other than the occasional babysitting job, was from this scam: "Mom, can I borrow 20$ for ____? I'll bring back the change." And then never bring back the change. Her purse weighed approximately 75 lbs, a disastrous clump of money, cards, floss, toothbrushes, lipstick tubes, taupe pantyhose.. Basically when toonies and loonies came along, if you did a weak scoop of the bottom of the purse, you'd still come up with at least $100. Or so Koleman tells me.
She was always the youngest Mom of my friends. When she was 36, I wanted her to remain that age forever. I don't know why that age sounded so good rolling off my tongue, but it did. You know what also sounded good? Living at home rent-free until I was 30. This is highly impossible with most parents - there is a reason, after all, why we eventually move out, and that is to avoid being charged with manslaughter. But I loved being home, her still being down the hall, Gramma Henderson eventually just down the stairs.
I got married in 2007. You know that list you're supposed to make before the wedding, of all the combinations of people you must have your photographer take? Yeah, we forgot. Other than a few shots of her helping me with the veil while her hair was still in curlers, we have no photos together that day. I also might have snapped twice at her - once when she came down to the hair salon without shoes on, but then didn't want to be filmed with no shoes on, so WHY AREN'T YOU WEARING SHOES, MOM? and then again when she couldn't figure out my bustle because I insisted on going to most of my dress appointments by myself in some bizarre unnecessary independent stance. I may have clapped my hands in anger and declared "This needs to have been figured out YESTERDAY." BUT, I did slide down the hotel hallway at 6 am that morning and lightly rapped on her door where my Gramma was watching tennis on mute and Mama was still asleep. I slid into bed beside her for a few minutes and felt like I was four again. When a Mama-warmed bed was the only thing you needed.
When my Gramma got very sick, Mama took care of her during the excruciating last weeks, and spent the last few nights in the hospice with her when Gramma's breathing was hoarse and laboured. These were the only days of work she had missed since Koleman was born. Her work ethic is myth-like. Her love and patience and strength were tapped out over those difficult months, but she came through it all and rebuilt and moved back to sleepy White Rock with Koleman and made her own little home again. She loves things I hate - gardening and garage-saling for furniture and meandering walks with the dog. I listen patiently while she tells me tales of her adventures, because anything I ever tell her is the most interesting thing she's ever heard. She loves Nuv like a son and listening to them shoot the shit out on the deck is just the greatest thing.
When I called to tell her I was pregnant* in February, she lost her shit. (Weirdly enough, both our Moms were like, "Are you serious?" We're funny kids, but that would be downright mean to joke about.) This news has brought her so much joy, it's almost ridiculous. Also ridiculous - I am due four days before my birthday, so in essence mirroring her own pregnancy with me. The snake swallowing its own tail and/or simultaneous barfing by two generations in late February, early March. She always said she would be the Grandma with candy in her bra. Koleman and I would look at each other and roll our eyes/shudder. Fair enough Mama. I am honestly petrified of becoming a Mama myself. I feel nowhere near prepared, emotionally or intellectually. I still get I.D'd! I can't add! But I have the Mom you read about in Young Adult fiction who trusts you to stay out all night and not nag you to get a job; the one in movies that gets up half-asleep to drive you to 7-11 or ask how the concert was; the Mama who was the envy of all my friends growing up, able to take a driveway in a jog with heels on, and didn't date losers with names like Steve or Dwayne.
Koleman and I were her life, and we still are. That love I reciprocate as much as my heart can bear, but I've read that you just don't know the love a mother has for her child until you have your own. Well, that's the road I'm travelling right now, and with my Mama to guide me and help me and love me and the teeny tiny caramel bub I have brewing, I will be ok. I might even be great.
Here she is getting some Gramma practice with my niece last year. If this isn't the cutest thing, I don't know what is. Happy birthday my beautiful Mama. If I can be half the woman and Mama that you are, I will be amazing.
(*The sole reason posts have been so scarce the last few months. But, MAN, do I have shit to TELL you. Soon.)