“But behind all your stories is your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.” –Mitch Albom
I am a Momma’s boy. I admit it. Totally and completely. Guilty as charged.
My older brothers were always great at being my Dad’s boys. They had the same interests, and their personalities fit together just right to make that manly-man relationship dynamic work. Even today, they are always on—or planning—some hunting or fishing expedition together, or telling stories about the last one. It is neat to watch them together and feel that kinship, that bond. I love how it works, even if I am relegated to watching it. Some circles, it seems, are not meant to expand. Our affinities cannot be forced. A square peg doesn’t fit into a round hole. Momma’s boys don’t make it onto the crew at Deer Camp.
But, Momma’s boys do get to share an indescribable, unbreakable bond with their mothers that is unlike any other. And, in addition to that special connection, they get to share a journey. They do LIFE together. They follow each other in spirit, because that is their destiny; it’s how they are wired. But the luckiest pairs get to actually ride along with each other in person, making beautiful memories as they go. I have had that lucky ride with my Mom.
I actually have a difficult time thinking of many specific moments with my mother, because she just seemed to always be there. She was at the helm on so many family roadtrips that were jam-packed with one happy memory after another. She was with me at every tennis match in every little town tournament I ever played in, all of which I remember. She has helped me pack and move my stuff all over the country on my long and winding path through this life, always supporting me. She has traversed the highways and byways of America with me as an adult—from Gettysburg to Glacier–always in search of new ways to educate me about our history and this great land. In these years when my mind and my life have seemed to be all over the map, my sweet and tireless Mom has been my faithful companion. My rock. The memories of my beautiful life begin and end with her.
What do I remember? Well, beyond my childhood days of uninterrupted love and wonder in her care, there are a few days and moments that stand out for me in our adult relationship. [Writer’s Note: It is really, really cool to get to be best friends with your Mom when you grow up, even while feeling that you will always, always be her little boy.] These are a few of my favorites:
When I decided it was time for me to leave Los Angeles in favor of wandering around Europe and figuring out what was next in life, my Mom, of course, got in the car and drove down from North Dakota to help me lug my stuff home (did I forget to mention that she is a saint, too?). On our way back, we stopped in Montana to see my brother for the night. We scooped him up in town and headed out to find a campsite in the wilds of that majestic land. He led us to a quiet, solitary spot along the river in a place that was aptly named Paradise Valley. I remember sitting on the river’s edge writing in my journal as my brother artfully casted his fly over the water, my mother looking on proudly. It was beautiful in every way. Later in the evening, we cooked dinner and told stories over a campfire, which invariably gives a conversation an air of simple Truth and authenticity. It was me and two of my most favorite people on Earth. It comforted me to know how much my Mom enjoyed spending that time with us. I felt pure there in Paradise with her.
A few years later, after wandering a bit but mostly secluding myself in my parents’ house to read and write, I decided to move (again) to Ohio to get my doctoral degree. I had also fallen in love and was going to be living in the same place as my girlfriend rather than across the country from one another. It was an enormous psychological leap for me to leave the friendly confines of my childhood home after a few years of holing up there in complete Bliss. It was probably comparable to my first day of kindergarten. Thankfully, in both cases, my Mom was there. She, of course, trailed me in my stuffed car as I rocked the UHaul cross-country for the umpteenth time. I remember standing there with her in the parking lot of my new apartment as she was about to head back home and leave me there to start my new life. We had just had the gift of a magical window of a few years to hang out and know each other as adults—a gift that very few parents and children receive–and now it was all ending, likely never to return. The gravity of that life-door closing was palpable. It had been an amazing ride. Through my tears, I said to her, “I feel like I am saying goodbye to my best friend.” I was.
Several years later, I found myself in a hospital room on a warm August night, dialing the phone with tears (again) rolling down my face. Following years of effort and heartbreak, I finally had a baby of my own. My angel, India. Since having the reins turned over to her by my Mom that day in Ohio, my wife had grown to understand the special nature of my relationship with my mother. I didn’t have to fight too hard to be allowed to give my first-born child the middle name of Jacqueline, after her grandmother, my Mom. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. So there I was on the phone that night, a tidal wave of emotions on an exposed nerve as I prepared to tell her the news. When I told her we had just had a baby girl, of course she asked what her name was. I could barely choke out the words, knowing how much the namesake meant to me and how much it would mean to her. There was a short silence on the line after I told her, as it seemed she had momentarily lost her breath. That moment was pure LOVE. It was every bit of my timeless, perfect connection to my Mom, only now it was cloaked in an all-new layer. This was the legacy, the next generation of a special relationship full of a lifetime of special memories.
I can only hope to be half the parent to India Jacqueline and her brother that my mother has been to me. I dream about the trips I want to take them on, to places I only know about because my Mom took me. I pray that I can be the friend to them that she is to me, the one they want to traverse the roads of Life with and share their proudest moments with. I hope that one day in the distant future—maybe when they have kids of their own—that they will look back fondly on the memories they made with their old man along the way, wishing they could pass on those same kind of memories and feel that same kind of special closeness. That would do my heart good. I will teach them well about the one who started this magical chain. My Mom. Thanks for the memories…..
How about you? What special memories do you have of your mother? Open up your journal and your heart, and write about the moments with her that have shaped you and stayed with you. What are your favorite moments? Are they big things, like trips or major events, or tiny, simple moments when everything is right just because Mom was there? What are the best adventures you have been on with your mother? What are your favorite intimate moments with your Mom, when it was just the two of you? Which memories that you have with her would you like to pass on to the next generation? What do you appreciate most about what your mother has brought to your life? Does she know how grateful you are? Maybe today is the day to let her know. Leave me a reply and let me know: What is your favorite memory of your mother?
Thank a Mom today,