The day after my agent told me a publisher wanted to publish my first book, my mother unexpectedly passed away. I fell from the highest of highs to the lowest low. These two events are inextricably tied together in my heart, and I can never think about achieving my dream of becoming an author without the sad realization that my mother never had the chance to see my dream come true.
My mom was never a cuddly, hugging sort of mom, but she shared her enthusiasm and joy for life in many ways – spontaneous trips to Disneyland or the ice cream shop, piling us kids onto her bed to watch old movies together and celebrating any and every achievement we had, big or small. She expressed her love through her actions, not words, and there was no doubt growing up how much she loved my siblings and me.
Our parents divorced when I was in third grade and, as scary as that time was for us, looking back now, I remember my mother seeming to come into her own. She got a job, went back to college to finish her degree and organized family get-togethers with other single moms and their kids. She later told us that she’d gone from her parents’ house to her husband’s house. She felt like she’d never had a chance to stand on her own two feet until the divorce. She loved her independence and made sure that my sister and I knew that being able take care of ourselves was the most important thing we could do as women. She never wanted us to feel like we couldn’t stand on our own.
I remember coming home on the day our dad moved his things out of the house. My mom and grandmother had taken us to the beach to distract us. But it was a drizzly and gray day, so there wasn’t much to do except watch the clock and wait for the time to pass so we could go home. When we finally got home, our mom pulled into the garage and turned to us before we got out of the car. She knew things would be different once we entered the house, the empty spaces and gaps that our father’s possessions used to fill would be silent reminders of how much our lives had changed. She plastered a reassuring smile on her face and assured us everything was going to be OK. We’d be fine and she’d take care of us. Then she proceeded to drive into the garage wall!
It was too ridiculous a moment for words and we all burst out laughing. It eased the tension and fear we felt as we faced a new chapter of our lives. That hole stayed in place for years, not because we couldn’t afford to fix it, but I honestly think it was to remind us that even on our lowest day as a family, we survived. We made the best of things and found a way to laugh.
Today is my mom’s birthday, and she would have been seventy-five. I have the courage to keep going because that’s what I saw her do while I was growing up. She never gave up, she made things happen and she celebrated all our successes, both big and small. I like to think I got my quirky sense of humor, my love of celebrating everything, and sense of independence from her. Happy birthday, Mom! I miss you every day. Thank you for everything.