Thanksgiving always reminds me of my mom. Her birthday is November 27th. I remember it would be extra special when it fell on Thanksgiving day. She passed away almost six years ago. It is funny that it feels like it has been a lifetime and like it was only yesterday. I am not sure if that makes sense?
Until recently, I held onto a lot of anger and resentment towards my mom. Choices she made or didn’t make. Family dynamics and sibling crap. It’s complicated. I am not sure when I let go of the resentment and anger, I just know it is gone. Maybe as I grow older, I can relate to her more than I did in my youth. Now, as I reflect on the things she did, I feel respect and admiration.
Pat, my mom, was the first badass woman in my life. She met and married my dad shortly after high school. She never had the opportunity to go to college. I remember my mom loved to write, and she loved learning new things. I was in 4th grade when she decided she wanted to attend college. My siblings and I thought it was a joke. My dad disapproved and told her she could not enroll. He said there was no way she could care for us, the home, and go to school.
That didn’t stop her. She signed up to take journalism classes at the local community college. My mom did not tell my father. She enlisted a friend to pick us up from school. She taught me how to cook a few meals. I was in charge of making dinner on the days she had class. (I mastered her meatloaf and Greek chicken and noodles recipes.) She did not tell my dad she was going to school until she finished her first semester with straight A’s. His response, “The kids are alive, and the house is still standing. I guess you can take classes.”
The following semester she decided she wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle. She signed up for motorcycle riding and safety courses through the college. My dad fixed up a motorcycle for her to use. Once she passed her class, my tiny mom could be seen riding to and from classes on her bike. My friends would tell me, “I saw your mom on her motorcycle with her backpack on.” I was embarrassed. I thought they were making fun of her.
I was young and self-absorbed. I was mortified by anything my parents did that might embarrass me. Let’s be honest, when you are a teen everything embarrasses you. I did not appreciate the courage it took for her to go back to college in her late 30’s. My mom was the oldest person in all of her classes. Heck, she was older than most of her professors. She completed her AA in Journalism in two years while raising a family and without the support of her husband.
I suspect this was not easy for her to accomplish. Setting out to do something new can trigger fear and uncertainty. I imagine she was not confident she could get her degree. If my dad found out (and eventually he would/did), he might pressure her to quit. I bet insecurity and doubt rode along with her during the journey. The obstacles she had to overcome, both real and imagined, were massive. I am certain the backpack she carried on the back of that bike was heavy in more ways than one.
My heart swells with emotion as I recount this season in my life. It may have taken me years to get here, but I am so proud of all the things she accomplished. My mom showed me that anything is possible, despite her age, sex, and economic status. I am honored to say, “My Mom was a badass woman ahead of her time! When I grow up, I want to be just like her.”