It’s funny, the things in life that force you to recall the past and trigger your deepest memories. Just the other day I was flipping through photos from our recent trip to Sedona, Arizona and I couldn’t help but notice just how much I looked exactly like my mother.
Over the years I’ve noticed the ways in which I have started to become her. I even catch her in the mirror sometimes as I walk by. Many women in their mid to late 20s say the same. It is a seemingly unavoidable part of life. I, however, believe my transformation transcended her incomprehensible crazy side, adopting only her most acceptable traits. Including, but not limited to: her cynicism, her creative and curious fashion sense, her ability to plan a killer event, her love of antiques and constant procurement of them, her bold color palette and ability to see beauty in even the most distressed things in life. Fortunately, her temper, irrationality, favoritism towards my younger brother and dramatic phobia of heights have, so far, been happily avoided. At least in my humble opinion. Todd may argue otherwise.
But when looking at those Sedona photos, I didn’t see her face or her mannerisms. Instead, I was immediately taken back to a middle school dance. It was 8th grade and I was madly in love with Tucker Leverton. Grossly overdressed in a tulle tea length black dress, but still invisible to a majority of my thirteen year old classmates. As the evening wrapped up, my mother emerged from the metal double doors that connect the gymnasium to rest of the outside world. She had been instructed to wait in the car, but incapable of sending a quick “I’m here” text to my non-existent cell phone, and her curiosity brimming, she decided to sneak in.
I saw her out of the corner of my eye and died a little inside. She looked like an extra in a period piece starring Keira Knightley. From the waist down she wore beige jodhpurs with dark suede knee patches and riding boots. (Important side note: we lived on a busy street in an urban neighborhood and my mother has never in her life ridden a horse). Up top she donned a puffy white blouse contained only by a plaid single button blazer. With ruffles exploding up to her chin, it was embarrassingly similar to the blouse we have all seen on Jerry Seinfeld in the infamous “puffy shirt” episode.
Before I knew it, Tucker Leverton was approaching. Perhaps he wanted to grab the last dance. Maybe compliment me for actually putting on a dress, which a majority of my female classmates had failed to do. Instead, he walked over and said with a smile, “It looks like your mom forgot her horse.” Too insecure to respond with a witty comment, I did what every helpless teenager would have done. I laughed awkwardly and decided to never come back to school again.
I never did thank her for that. For being so unapologetically herself that it made everyone stop and stare. Including the 8th grade love of my life.
It is her uniqueness that I appreciate most as I get older. She was never restricted by societal norms and defied the rules elegantly, perhaps unintentionally proving them wrong. So every time I gravitate towards the boldest, puffiest sleeve I can find, I think of her. And look forward to the day I can embarrass the hell out of my own children. Hopefully, reminding them to never hold back from being exactly who they are. Even if it takes a few years to realize it.