My mom, my working mother, my corporate powerhouse mother, spent a lot of money and spent even more hours on my childhood hobbies. She frequented the sweaty YMCA while I “played volleyball,” and massacred basketball. She sat through one too many poorly rehearsed renditions of Easy Note “Just Breath” in poorly executed piano recitals. My mom carted me to singing groups and dropped me off at school extra early so I could learn Spanish and practice the Oboe. If I wanted to be well rounded, well, darnit, she was going to see to it that I was.
But the key part of the above sentence is:
Perhaps to my mother’s dismay, I didn’t want to be an clarinetist or baker. But after giving me a solid bite at a whole lot of apples, I think my mom was still happy to let me be who I wanted to be, because she genuinely believed that what I wanted to be was something good. She was along for the ride, and she helped me find it with patience after quite a few failed attempts at talent-searching.
Sometimes I wonder if the hobby that stuck ever exasperated her, because the hobby that stuck was solitary, non-performative, and didn’t cost a dime. The hobby that stuck didn’t really invite standing ovations or loud applause. The hobby that stuck did not demand attention, and didn’t showcase her abilities to mother like other hobbies might.
I sometimes wonder if my mom wished for more to be proud of with me.
But I don’t really wonder it… not really. I think she was proud of me and the me that I needed to be. Here’s why.
The hobby that stuck was writing. And when I was eleven, I wrote my first novel on a 1995 Windows computer. The writing quality was worse than the Comic Sans font that I wrote it in. I mean, it was terrible, so really, Bill Gates did me a favor by building a machine susceptible to viruses.
One day in middle school, I realized that a virus wiped out all 209 pages of my hobby, my only hobby. It felt like realizing your imaginary friends were imaginary and then not being able to see them anymore. It felt like losing myself and my best friends, and it felt like losing my talent. I think it was the first time that I noticed that my sadness didn’t go away after a good cry. I was really sad.
My mom didn’t tell me to stop crying; after a long day of work, she put her arm around me, led me to the car, and told me to buckle up. She drove me right to Noodles and Company and bought me Macaroni and Cheese.
“Comfort Food,” she explained.
She let me audibly blubber splotchy 7th Grade sobs into my Macaroni (more wasted money), and didn’t try to shush me while shocked onlookers tried to quietly consume their Penne Rosa. She patted my hand soothingly. She let noodles get stuck in my braces. My mother hurt with me, and honestly, it felt better. She empathized.
At that point in my life, we’d given up on dance lessons and accepted that Tai Kwon Do was…not successful. So instead of carting me off to golf class or sewing school, my mom knew exactly where to take me. It wasn’t as sophisticated as a choir concert, and not as fast-paced as a dance recital.
Instead, my mother drove me to Kinkos, spent a dollar per page, and helped me scan the only existing copy of my novel into a computer document. Scanners weren’t very efficient back then. It took a long time. My mother helped rescue my pathetic little novel.
I know she did it because she loved me, but I think she also did it because she was proud.
Mom, I’m sorry they don’t make bumper stickers that said, “My child is a novelist,” but thank you for always, without fail, 100% of the time making me feel like you were giving me a standing ovation.
Happy Mother’s Day to you. I couldn’t ask for a better mother.