I saw my mother today.
We were at The Little Gym, my two daughters and me. She saw us and immediately came over. She played with my older daughter helping her to roll backward and walk on the balance beam. When my kiddo wanted to play with the balls, she lifted her high up so she could choose the "right" ball from the bin—the red, spiky one.
I was wearing my 3-month-old daughter in a carrier, and honestly, without her help, I don't know how I would have gotten through the class I was so grateful. When it was time to say goodbye, I felt sad our class was over because I didn't know when exactly I'd get to see her again.
I guess none of this sounds out of the ordinary or strange, other than the fact that my mother passed away almost 10 years ago. I have not seen her face or heard her voice in almost a decade and yet, I see her in someone almost every day.
It happens when a kind woman, who is the age my mom would be today, comes over to me. In this case, it was the great aunt of another member of The Little Gym. When she came closer to me, it was as if we knew each other already. She smiled at me and I instantly recognized something in my heart. My gut did a weird little twirl and I knew it was my mom.
As I recount the ages and names of my children to this stranger, I can't help but throw some personal information in there, too. I was a first grade teacher, but it was too stressful. I think I might go back to school for counseling. My husband is very helpful and owns the coin store in town. He is a good man.
I want this person to know that I am okay, but really, I want my mom to know that I am okay. Because things look a lot different for me since the last time I saw her.
When my mom passed away I was only 22. I was still in college and I had no idea what I was doing with any aspect of my life. I was in an unhealthy relationship with a boy I didn't like at all, but like most insecure 20-somethings, I didn't think I could do better. I had no idea where I would work or what I would teach. I was dealing with a poorly treated anxiety and panic disorder. I was afraid to live on campus.
It was a rough time for me—and she didn't get to see that I turned out okay.
Because I did. I learned to live with her absence and eventually grew to accept it. But nothing prepared me for just how much I would miss my mother until I became one myself. I realized I missed her more than ever.
Everyone felt like a stranger to me, even the tiny human tucked onto my chest. I just wanted a familiar face and someone to say they were proud of us. And, sure, others could say it, but I wanted my mom to say it. She was the one who knew me best.
As I grapple through motherhood with a 20-month-old and a 3-month-old, I can't help but notice the extra set of hands that are missing. As I pick out clothes for my kids and detail their every milestone, I wonder what my milestones were like when I reached them with my mother by my side. More importantly, I wonder how she even survived motherhood, because it can be so hard.
So it's nice when I can walk into ACME, stand in line at Target, or take a class at The Little Gym and see someone approaching me with a kind smile. I immediately feel that I have known them forever and my stomach twirls. I look into their eyes as we meet for the first time, but really, I know that it isn't the first time. It's just you, mom, coming to check in to make sure I'm okay.
And I am. I promise.