Your Nana can be a real pain in my ass. She’s dogmatic. She’s messy. She’s aloof. And she will even sometimes answer to the nickname, “Hot Mess.” But despite all of her irksome idiosyncrasies, or perhaps even in light of them, she is a better role model for women than even Hillary Clinton herself. It seems silly to condense the positive influence she has had on my life to a bullet-point list, but this is a blog. So, here’s the short list for why I am sure you’ll end up in awe of her, just as I have:
- SHE NEVER TOOK PICTURES – My mother took a picture once. It was when I was in my early 20s and it came out blurry and crooked. This is important. My mother was always too occupied looking. Too occupied living. She takes it all in wherever she goes. She appreciates the brevity of life; the delicacy of a moment. She prioritizes living life, not capturing it as though it’s something to put away in a box, or an album. There are so few pictures of our childhood, but it lives on so richly in my mind as a series of genuine memories.
- HER HAIR IS GRAY – And people aren’t nice about it. But she doesn’t care. She thinks its great. And it is. But it wouldn’t matter if it wasn’t. Our culture is so obsessed with youth that we forgot how beautiful it is to grow. And growing old is part of that. Her gray shows her wisdom. It shines with experience. And it screams “fuck you” to our world of superficiality. That’s what I love most about it.
- SHE COOKS WELL – My brother and I will always want to come home and her friends and family will always want to come over to get a nibble of her culinary genius. But that’s not why she cooks. She cooks because it’s her passion.
- BUT SHE CAN RUN A BUSINESS EVEN BETTER – My dad doesn’t know how much money he and my mother make. He doesn’t know how to bookkeep, keep a client happy, or tell a client off (with class, of course). I love you, Dad, but I think we all know that Mom drives the business. And she drives it oh so well.
- SHE’S MADE OF STEEL – Hugs, “I love you’s”, and kisses are all but absent in my mother’s life. But I’ve never felt loved so wholly as I do by her. The physicality isn’t necessary because her love is so incredibly demonstrative where it really counts. She shows me what it is to love, she doesn’t tell me.
- SHE ALWAYS ANSWERS THE PHONE – My mother has always been incredibly busy. She’s always worked from home, meaning she was a full-time working mom AND a full-time stay-at-home mom. She does it all. But she always has time; not just for me, but for the many, many people that come to her for support. You’ll never see her ignore a phone call, no matter who it is calling or what they need. She’s always there.
- SHE TRAVELS SOLO-STYLE – Whether to Europe or Maine, my mother has always taken solo escapes. This has shown me the importance of independence, but more importantly, it has shown me how to love being with myself. Because, really, the only person that will truly always be there for you is you.
- SHE NEVER STOPS LEARNING – My mother does not have a B.A. degree, and that has been a deeply influential part of my life. She is as well-read as Oprah, as intellectually curious as Hawking and as creative as Martha Stewart. She always told me that degrees are important, but showed me that embracing a lifelong thirst for knowledge and growth is paramount.
- SHE LISTENS – I can bitch. A lot. Sometimes about the same thing, day in and day out. But she always takes in each word. Always offers advice. Always takes my feelings seriously. Her patience is infinite. Oh how I wish I could have learned this from her. But there are just some things that can’t be taught.
- BUT SHE ALWAYS SPEAKS UP – Now just because she listens, that doesn’t mean she appeases. In fact, she usually doesn’t. She has this incredible, almost unbelievable, ability to see the best in every person, to see the positive in every situation. And I am so, so grateful that she will live a very long life because of it.
So, Evangeline, I will try so very hard to be for you what my mother has always been for me. I will try to show you, not tell you. I will love you, not hug you. And I will teach, not preach. But when, at times, I can’t keep up; when I find myself in awe of my mother and not in mimicry, you can find her. Hopefully, you will find her just down the road. But if she’s no longer there, you’ll always be able to find her in the rich memories that I am sure she will leave with you, just as she has left for me.