Here is one of my earliest memories: in kindergarten one day we were playing a game that involved hopping on one foot, and I could not do it. I should explain that my mom was the kindergarten teacher and I only a four-year old, though the others were five. Anyway, my mom suggested I stay home with my dad the next day and practice hopping, which I did. I am pretty sure I learned how to hop on one leg, although I don’t actually remember that part – but I have always remembered my mom’s teaching that one can do anything with a little practice, and thus far in my life, this has proved to be true.
My mom pushed me always to do better, most of the time with a nudge, but occasionally with a fierceness that made us clash. When pushed too hard, I would simply have a temper tantrum, as the family story goes. As I grew older though, the lesson of setting my own boundaries made life very simple, most of the time. I was not caught up in the pressure of my peers at school and elsewhere, but made active choices as to my actions and behaviours at a very young age. I certainly got into trouble as a teenager, although most of this was by refusing to follow the herd. I do remember being mystified that my friends had to hide their behaviours not acceptable to their families – if I chose to do it, my family knew. Honesty was a deep-seated value in my family and deeply integrated into my psyche. There may be a few details missing, but my mom knows every mistake, every misstep, every bad choice and consequences I ever made, and she still loves me. There is a wonderful beauty in such a relationship…Maybe that is why I have always thought of my mom as my best friend, and tell her everything. It is a very different mother/daughter relationship than the one ascribed to sentiment and popular culture and the rather puerile notions of mother as madonna.
Anyway mom, I love you with the same shining light of those four-year old eyes: you will always be my best friend, even when you push me past my limits and piss me off. There may well be a few more temper tantrums: you taught me well. Still, if I got to choose, I would do it all over again, for there is a wonderful beauty in a relationship with such naked honesty. A wonderful beauty. Happy Birthday.