Life isn’t fair.
It has a way of sorting us out quickly and indiscriminately. There are things we choose, and things that we don’t choose. Oftentimes it is the things that we have not chosen that have the biggest impact on our life.
I didn’t choose my mother.
I was born shortly before my mother’s 19th birthday. I know it wasn’t easy. She was probably scared. I know she was broke. I know she was judged. But I know she loved me immediately and unquestionably.
One of my earliest memories of childhood was a pop-up “museum” that I organized for my kindergarten class at our house. I invited others in my class to bring a favorite item to display in our front yard, for one day, to the likely confusion of all of the adults involved. In spite of the ridiculousness of the project, what sticks with me the most about that memory was my mother’s excitement for the idea.
She didn’t question whether or not it made sense. She didn’t challenge my childhood naiveté. She didn’t take stock of how much of her time it would require, or whether or not I would be heartbroken if no one showed up.
She embraced my intrepid nature. She supported my curiosity. She refused to stand in the way of my idiosyncratic projects. And with her support, I’ll be damned if we didn’t fill that museum up and end up on the 5pm news.
“When I failed, she didn’t feel sorry for me, and she didn’t let me feel sorry for myself. We moved on, because the next big adventure was probably right around the corner.”
There has never been a moment in my life when I thought anything was outside of my reach. My mother never created artificial boundaries to keep me tethered to reality. My potential was always limited only by my imagination. “Why” was never the question. We always went straight to work on “how”.
I imagined big things. I tried big things. I failed early and often. I crashed and burned more times than I can count. But while my mother’s expression was occasionally one of bemusement, she never once showed a moment of hesitation or disappointment when things didn’t work out. There was never a moment when I felt like I couldn’t swing for the fences.
She wasn’t a cheerleader. I didn’t get pep talks. But she gave me free reign to fail without judgment or ridicule. When I failed, she didn’t feel sorry for me, and she didn’t let me feel sorry for myself. We moved on, because the next big adventure was probably right around the corner.
When I was marooned on the bench for an entire summer on a 5th grade traveling basketball team, my mom didn’t bemoan the unfair nature of being asked to pay for hotels and travel to watch me sit on the bench. It wasn’t logical. We couldn’t afford it. Huge sacrifices were made to make it happen. But she never batted an eye. She refused to complain and certainly wouldn’t let me be the victim. All I could see was her unwavering support and that was enough for me.
She wasn’t going to give me a reason to brood, so I refused to. I just went to work. And ten years later when I looked up to see her in the stands of my first college basketball game, all I could think about were those long road trips she took to watch me sit on the sidelines. It was her way of saying “things don’t have to stay this way”, and they didn’t.
“My journey was hand-molded by a mother that dared to take every chance that I dared to take for myself.”
I’m still that petulant kid that insists on tinkering and scheming. I still imagine big things. I’m still indifferent about the specter of failure. I’m still constantly daring myself to push the boundaries.
But I wasn’t born that way, and I didn’t choose it. My journey was hand-molded by a mother that dared to take every chance that I dared to take for myself. When I had a grand idea, I wasn’t pulled back down to earth, I was lifted up. And when a crash landing was necessary we put the pieces back together and immediately started dreaming of the next challenge.
Feral is one of those dreams.
Today is my mother’s birthday. It is the grandest of holidays for me. This day is more than a celebration of her life. It is a celebration of all the lives she has touched. She is mother to 10, a mentor to many, and a damn hero to me.
She deserves the world, and like most mothers she is revered far less often than she should be. These words are insufficient, but I hope that my journey continues to be an honor to everything that she has given me. If I’ve lived a life worthy of her gifts, I’ll consider it a life well-lived.
Happy Birthday momma.