A Story About a Mom
By J. L. Thurston
[Editor's Note: Yes, Mother's Day is a few days away but some of you have forgotten it. Here is reminder. –DH]
Some girls dream of being an ice skater, some dream of starring in movies, and the wildest dreams involve princesses and ballerinas. As they get older they imagine becoming teachers, or nurses or travelers of the world.
There once was a young woman who dreamed of the day she could become a mother. Holly was beautiful, full of life and laughter and of an easy temperament. In the late 1970s, she was like dandelion seeds blowing everywhere in the wind. Whimsical and free.
There was an older man who filled her eyes with stars and her head with the buzzing excitement of bees. He gave her three children in the span of six years. She thought she was getting everything she ever wanted, but instead she received heartache.
He abused her. Stole from her. Ignored their children. He ran off with other women for months at a time, returning for food and shelter. He was an addict. He broke her nose. His own mother told Holly to leave him. It seemed endless and hopeless. It wasn’t until she lost her mother to cancer that she found it within herself to move on.
She scooped up her babies and traveled three days in a train to a small town south of Chicago. There she was, a young mother with a brood of crazy toddlers, completely alone with nothing but her wits to survive.
Did she cry? Probably, but she never showed it. She rolled up her sleeves and got to work on rebuilding her life. She focused only on paying bills and keeping her children healthy and happy. She got her kids into school and church, they ate three meals a day, and there was never a shortage of laughter under their roof. They all thought that nothing could possibly be missing from their lives.
Until she met this one guy. John worked with her in a kitchen. He’d blow straw wrappers at her and she would laugh, making the sun shine with her smile. He had a sharp wit and was just the right amount of carefree. He loved rock ballads. They went to KISS concerts, wearing leather jackets and hair-spray. They rode around in his green Chevy Nova, blasting cherry bombs and speeding through country roads. He made her laugh, she made him want to make her laugh.
And though she refused him many times, he finally convinced her to go out on a date with him. How had he finally broken through the impenetrable fortress she had built around her heart? Was it possible she could actually trust a man again? She found herself willing to try.
Their first official date was in winter, and the snow was coming down like a white curtain. That’s the story they tell these days, anyway. They claim the roads were terrible when their date ended. He just had to stay over. And he never left.
He was there for every meal, every church and school play, every game, and every bedtime. He didn’t have it easy. Raising someone else’s kids is one of life’s most difficult challenges.
The eldest child refused to acknowledge him. The son was grateful for a male figure to wash away the sea of estrogen in the house, but they had very little in common and rarely bonded. He had his hands full with the mouthy, drama-queen youngest daughter (that’s me, by the way). I was constantly testing him, but I was quick to call him Dad, and sit on his lap for cartoons, and make him tie my shoelaces.
After abuse, abandonment and starting a new life, my mother finally had the one thing she had dreamed of. A family. Happy and whole. It wasn’t perfect, but that added flavor.
We all argued with each other and tested boundaries. We butted heads, we disagreed. But underneath it all was love. And it was all so blissfully normal.
My mom’s maternal spirit was not exclusive to her offspring. Many times, she took in the abandoned kids in their small town. Surprisingly, this kind of thing happens a lot. Sometimes cousins were taken under her wing, sometimes it was kids from school who had nowhere to go. It wasn’t just her own brood who called her Mom. And for many years I had to endure being called “Holly’s daughter,” in my own hometown.
My mother became a grandmother in one giant swoop. I was the first to be pregnant, and five months into it, my brother turned up with a pre-started family and his own baby on the way. My mom went from mother-of-three to grandmother-of-six in one year. It was a beautiful year.
It was no surprise that my brother became such a dedicated and happy step-father, being raised by an amazing one himself. If anyone brings it up, I will proudly say that my step-father was the best gift my mother had ever given us. My brother would easily agree, but only say so in his mind or maybe after a beer. As for the eldest kid, my big sister, well, she’s kind of a black sheep now. Eh, can’t win them all.
To this day, my parents are still in love. Older, going to doctor’s appointments and laughing as they both fall apart. My mom’s a little blind, my dad’s a little deaf, they struggle with cholesterol and blood pressure and blood sugar and sleep disorders. The jokes never end at the dinner table. They bicker, they squabble, they get angry for no reason, and they never leave each other’s side.
Mother’s Day is all about how amazing our moms are. They kick ass for their children, they fight battles for us without seeking credit or attention. My mother is a queen among women because she gave us a father who not only loves us unconditionally but loves her just as much, too. So, in a way, I can never feel solely grateful to one parent or the other, because they are a single unit. They are the foundation of our family, so only thanking one instead of both would be like thanking a single rope for holding up a bridge.
Thank you, Mom and Dad. Your children and your grandchildren love you.