It’s no secret that so much of my life is changing this year. And it’s got me thinking a lot about people I’ve known, and how they’ve helped shape me and prepare me for what’s next- a U.S./Canada RV adventure and then a huge solo trip around the world. And the person who’s influenced me most in that and every regard is my Mom.
I don’t really know how my Mom got so gutsy. She grew up in a beautiful tiny town called Hemmingford, forty-five minutes south of Montreal, where she graduated with six students in her class- a point my brother and I learned after she’d told us repeatedly how she graduated 2nd in her class and we finally thought to inquire further. But more importantly she was really sheltered- couldn’t ride a bike until she was eleven, couldn’t go anywhere without her brothers, and went to a small all girls college, all at the insistence of my Grandpa. And her family didn’t travel, except to rent a summer camp at nearby Lake Champlain. By all accounts she was raised to be afraid to do a lot of things on her own, even in her small corner of the world, and to fear people who were different from her family.
But my Mom had wanderlust, and at twenty years old eloped with my Dad and moved nearly 3,000 miles away to Los Angeles. And she didn’t subscribe to the shoulds and shouldn’ts- by the time I was two months old, we were on a plane from L.A. to Montreal to meet my family.
Within six years, my Mom was divorced with full custody and financial responsibility for my younger brother and I. Living in New England allowed us to remain in the States, but be closer to family. We lived in diverse Portland, Maine neighborhoods where my Mom, and also we, made an equally diverse group of friends. The open-mindedness my Mom modeled was in stark contrast to my Grandpa’s opinions…and I don’t think by accident.
Each Christmas she would pack up my brother and I and all the family presents, and make the often harrowing 5-7 hour drive through the slick mountainous roads so that we could spend the holidays with our family in Hemmingford. She was a young, solo female traveler, with two small, rambunctious kids in tow and she never gave any indication that this was anything but normal. I know it wasn’t easy during those years she was with us alone, but she was resourceful, so we were able to have great experiences on a tight budget.
When she and my step-dad met, we began a series of moves every few years for his career. I’ve perpetuated that in my adulthood and have a huge appreciation for how much harder it must have been with a family of four. Growing up in this way taught me how to deal with change, and to let go of material things I don’t need.
There are times when I’ve wished I’d grown up differently. Without the financial struggle, the divorces, the moves, but these days I realize that all of that, or more aptly how my Mom handled all of that taught me such valuable lessons for where I am right now.
Four years ago, a week after my Mom had a subarachnoid hemorrhage, we celebrated Mother’s Day in a neurological intensive care unit. We actually felt so grateful to be able to celebrate, and were even more grateful when within two months, my Mom made a full recovery. Mother’s Day has had even more meaning to me since then.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom! I love you! Thank you for, through your own actions and words, making me feel like I can do anything I put my mind to…even the “crazy” stuff. Whenever I get scared, I’ll think of you and your fearlessness.