I like to imagine my mother before I knew her–before she became a mom for the first time to my big sister and wife to my father. I like to imagine her long straight hair, jeans that hugged her ballerina legs, her high heels clicking along the pavement on her way to a job she was damn good at, her tan skin on elegant arms that opened out wide to the world.
Because it was those open arms that brought me into my world. A world with gravel roads, cattle grazing in the yard, clay buttes, children on horses and neighbors who lived miles a way. A world I am certain this beauty queen who used to twirl and spin in satin dresses on stages never pictured herself in.
I like to imagine her this way, young and in love and willing to sacrifice the life between city streets, the life she was familiar with, for a man in a band with wild, black hair wearing a suit with cowboy boots and looking displaced in that city where they met–ready to bust out at the polyester seams, saddle his horse and ride out on the interstate toward home.
I like to imagine him, my father before he was my father, enamored by this woman with quiet confidence, natural beauty and an aversion to practical shoes. A woman who was like no other woman he had ever met, who was fine on her own raising a beautiful daughter, but might be convinced, if treated with the kindness and respect that she deserved, to go with him.
Go with him to live in this wild space, a space that I imagine has always been under appreciative of a woman so refined and polished and poised. A space that required more practical shoes.
I like to picture that she pulled on her boots and listened to her new husband’s dreams of cattle and horses while she searched for work, taught dance classes in the nearby small town, had two more daughters and raised them in a landscape so far from the sidewalks and movie theaters and restaurants of her youth.
But she never complained. At least I have never heard it. And out here surrounded by snakes and trees and creeks and buttes and big blue sky my mother watched her daughters grow and get their hands dirty and tangle their fuzzy hair in the wind. She cheered them on at small town rodeos, tended to broken arms, made makeshift habitats for pet turtles in her roasting pan, gave advice on cheerleading moves, helped with 4-H projects and bought them pretty shoes, no matter the dirt and mud they insisted on dragging into the house on our boots.
And while she drove one with ballerina aspirations to lessons 75 miles away, sent one to ride horses and sing her songs on stage and scheduled the other for basketball and volleyball camps around the state, I imagine her grabbing little pieces of her heart and spirit and handing them quietly off to her daughters…
Her pointed toes, blue eyes, poise, gentle nature and quiet beauty slipped to her oldest in her mug filled with hot chocolate on her way out the door.
The honesty, determination, quick wit, strength and social graces that exist within my mother flew out of her mouth and attached to her youngest during an argument about boyfriends or clothes or parties with friends.
And to her middle daughter, a daughter who in her younger days was convinced that she had nothing in common with the woman who gave birth to her, she gave a gift of gentle touches, encouragement, belief in wild dreams and understanding of untamed emotions. But most of all her sacrifice, her perseverance, tolerance and acceptance of a world she had to grow to understand and appreciate has been her greatest gift to me…the gift of a home on the landscape I will always belong to.
That, and an affection for impractical shoes.
But for all that she’s given, all of the sacrifices she has made through winters at the ranch that seemed to have lasted years, through snakes and skunks making their way into her home, through thankless jobs, burned tuna casseroles, drought and dust storms, drained bank accounts and children who just won’t listen, my mother has held on to the best parts of herself:
The beauty queen parts, the wine connoisseur, hilarious loon interpreter and graceful selflessness parts. The life of the party, the fashionista, giver of the most thoughtful gifts, Christmas loving, sun seeker, tasteful, best friend in the world parts. The big sister, the caring daughter, the understanding wife parts. The organized and impeccably clean and always prepared (even when 30 miles away from the nearest grocery store) parts.
The parts of her that have always known what is best for her family. Best for her daughters.
So, yes, I like to imagine my mother before I knew her, before she was my mother. I like to imagine her with all of that love to give, all of that joy, all of those dreams and talents with the world at her delicate fingertips.
And then give thanks that she chose this life. Of all of the things and people she could have belonged to, all of the places she could have laid her heart down, she chose to lay it here.
She chose us.
And we are the luckiest.
Happy Mother’s Day momma.