I was looking through some old high school photos the other night, as girls are sometimes wont to do. I was looking at images of myself during some of my best, if slightly tainted with teenage drama, moments–and I was wondering what it was about me that seemed so different from now. Twelve years will bring changes for anyone, and yes, my hair was longer and thicker and my face a little rounder and rosier. But there was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
Then it hit me. That lipstick.
There it was. The lipstick that my mother always said looked best on me. The one she complimented me on,told me brightened my complexion and whitened my teeth. She never hesitated to tell me when she thought another shade I was wearing was too light or too dark; washed me out or didn’t flatter me.
I thought she was so controlling, and after high school I started ignoring her advice on such things, or telling her to back off altogether. But looking at the pictures now, it dawned on me.
Oh my god. She was right.
I celebrated my 30th birthday last weekend. And today, on Mother’s Day, I’m struck with how long it’s been since I’ve been able to share these occasions with her. It’s been nearly ten years since she passed away, and I’m left thinking about the many things she was right about, and millions more I miss about her. She was my biggest fan; she was my cheerleader, my champion. She was a mother, but always a friend–one of the closest I have ever, and will ever, have.
After she passed away she was raised to saint status in my mind. So much so that for a long, LONG time I would, well, pray and ask my mom for guidance, and my litmus test for right and wrong was “What Would Mom Do?”
As I got older I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life. My mother wasn’t always right. She wasn’t perfect–she was flawed, and beautifully human. She made mistakes. She lived through less than ideal scenarios. There were many things she did, or didn’t do, during my childhood that I’m sure she regretted or wanted to do differently.
I suppose when a woman grows older (I’m 30 after all–yikes) she begins to examine her childhood and the things that she might want to do differently with her own children, if and when she has them. That’s human. There are things I would do differently. I do not hold all the same the beliefs my mother did. Not on religion, not on politics. Not on a lot of things. Whether those beliefs are “right” or “wrong” is probably open to interpretation, but allowing myself to believe she wasn’t always right about everything has allowed me to grow tremendously as a person.
I’m sure one day my (hypothetical) kids will look back on their own childhoods and the choices I made while they were growing up. They’ll look at my beliefs and my opinions and decide if they agree. And there will be things–many I’m sure–that they vow to do differently with their own kids.
When that time comes I hope I’m open-minded and support them in their decisions, because for me, realizing my mom didn’t have all the answers allowed me to grow into the person I am today. I’d like to think she would like the grown-up me, and that she’d be proud of me. We wouldn’t see eye to eye on everything if she were still around today. But I’ve learned that seeing eye to eye isn’t everything in a relationship.
God was she right about the lipstick, though. I went out and bought a new tube of it the other day.
Looking at those photos the other night I was struck with something else. Why did I spend my teenage years thinking I looked so bad? Why did I waste all that energy beings self conscious? I looked great!
Funny enough, that’s something she told me I’d say one day.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I miss you.
(Artwork courtesy of The Graphics Fairy)