I think it’s time for me to talk about the most consistently true fact of my life. (Yes, facts can be false. They can feel false even in their “correctness.”) The most prominent fact of my life–the one that feels most right and most true, is the fact of my mother. You know what it is about my mother? Well, for one, she exists. She exists in everything that I do. She is there–not just whispering in my ear, but coming out of my mouth. But beyond that. She exists in the most frustratingly wonderful way, the way only a daughter could ever admit to knowing. The most consistently true fact of my life? My mother is always right.
I resisted my mother throughout high school. (It’s funny how our memories seem to go that far, and then stop, fading off into the glories or tragedies of our childhood. I’ll never conquer the whole-life-story memoir.) Ok, I stand corrected. It started in eighth grade. The eighth grade dance. Spring of 2005? God.
The eighth grade dance: where girls absolutely had to wear thongs under their jean skirts. I mean, can you imagine the event any other way? Stealth, in the backseat of the car, my sister and I pulled down our non-thongs, and slipped on those tiny little string numbers that we’d been hiding under our beds. We went to the dance. I’m not sure if we had more or less fun because of our underwear swap. But when we got home we ran up the stairs before my mother could even finish “did you have fun?” She quickly followed. “Girls.” And we admitted it all. “It wasn’t worth it, Mama!” That’s when I knew. My mother knows everything.
She knew when we hid Mike’s Hard in our drawers. She knew when we went to a party, instead of to a friend’s house. She knew that wounds heal and that field hockey practices aren’t all that bad. She knew when we were in love, and she knew how to catch us when we fell. She knew when we were smoking a joint in Emelie’s bedroom closet. Ok, so everyone knew that. We were next to an air vent.
My mother has been saying that it will get better. Or that it’s all okay. Or that what we feel is normal. Those reassuring platitudes of mothers across the globe–those are all really true. Since high school (and of course before then–but if you had a relatively untroubled childhood, you really come into raging negativity at around 14 years of age), my mother has been there: a steady, irksome fact. My mother is the truth.
How often do we want to shout back: no it will not be okay! It is not okay now, nor will it ever be! I know I used to scream those words. I used to sob and sigh those words. I don’t know if I loved self-pity, or if I just really, really wanted to be more right than my mother. With time, I was always okay. No heartbreak or missed opportunity or bad grade or awkward situation could keep me from my mother’s truth. Is it with time that we heal? Or are those passing days simply the sum of the time it takes for us to figure out that our mother was right all along?
Sometimes my mother texts me a picture of a line from whatever book she’s reading. Today it was: “The mundane,”I read once, “is the edge of glory.” Sitting in my office, bent over every kind of financial form you can think of, I sighed. Happily, I continued filing. The ordinary is extraordinary! I thought. I drank more coffee, shredded more paper. What’s wrong with the mundane? It’s like my mother knew that my Tuesday was headed down the drain. It’s like she felt, instinctively, my hopeless demise into dull sadness. And she set me free. That picture with a smiley face emoji. By god, has a mother ever been more right than that?
As I write these words I think of the depth of the love I have for my mother. I feel it, every day, turning into a deep and endless respect. It is not just how did she do it? but how does she do it? and, really will I ever be able to do it too?
I feel, also, the deep sadness of the absence of mothers who should still be here. As special as my mother is to me, I marvel at the un-exceptional nature of our relationship. Girls and their mothers–no matter how far apart they may be, share an impossible kind of love. It’s so rare that when we all hold it before us, it seems almost…mundane and yet, still…glorious. Every day I mourn the loss of a dear, dear mother. And then I do my best to celebrate her life. I know that my mother, loving in the same way that she taught me, celebrates her life as well. We come together; we are the truth; we are glorious.
I’m going home in less than two weeks. I always say that I love Charleston– I just wish it were in North Carolina. My mother is always right from far away, but I need her close. I need her to see me right now. I feel okay right now. I feel whole. I feel like her years of patient reassurance have come to fruition. I have become the truth of the fact of my mother. I close my eyes, see my driveway, my dogs, the creek in the back. I hug my father with the kind of love and loyalty that deserves its own dedication. I hug my brother if he’s home from school. And then I hug my mother. I know she always tears up when we reunite like this. Of course I do too. It’s a beautiful, beautiful truth.