I’ll Love You Forever, I’ll like You for Always

My earliest memory of my mom is this: us sitting on the floor of my childhood living room. We have a menagerie of half naked Barbies on the footstool between us and we are deciding a plot for our game. I remember her being beautiful, and why wouldn’t I, she is breathtaking. But I remember her being beautiful for different reasons, because when your three it doesn’t matter if she has the newest haircut, the trendiest clothes or symmetrical features. No, I remember admiring her beauty because she was laughing with me. She was probably in a dingy sweatshirt that she was third in line to own, stretch pants and wool socks (her lifetime favorite). But she was laughing with her heart. The smile in her eyes was of something of a mother being so full of love, and twenty years later it hasn’t left her eyes.

It didn’t even leave her eyes all the nights during my teen years that I told her I hated her. The years that I raged and squealed like a banshee and slammed every cupboard, door, book, brother, etc that I could find and swore up and down I would never, ever in ALL MY LIFE want to be like her.

She kept that smile in her eyes when our home burnt to the ground and she was left with two young children and the clothes on her back. All I wanted was all of the material things I had lost back. And I screamed and cried about a million things that, to this day, I can hardly remember. But, somehow she managed to convincingly keep her head held high and never stop loving us.

It didn’t leave her eyes when she was single and picking up the pieces of a 21 year marriage. Not even on the nights when I could see that the world was almost too much for her to handle and I didn’t hug her like I should have or make her laugh like I should have. Half the time she was the one making me laugh just so I didn’t think my family was falling apart at the seams. Which, now, I realize was the reason it didn’t.

She made it to every concert, girl scout outing, Easter/Halloween/Christmas party. She held me when my heart was broken. She taught me what exactly was behind the birds and the bees and laughed at my reaction. Even though she wanted me to, she talked me out of leaving college to move home even when I would cry every night with a homesick stomach my entire freshmen year. She held my hand as I dealt with death and heartache and she never lost that smile in her eyes.

This is to every mom who’s felt the stress, who thinks motherhood is a full-time job, who wishes her ungrateful children would wake up, who wonders if she’s really cut out for this…Because one day your three year old will remember that Barbie game that you decided to play instead of throwing that last load of laundry in. She’ll remember just how beautiful you were that day and she’ll know that that day will make her just a little happier for the rest of her life.

I love you, Mom.

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The Pink Flamingo

I think my distorted view of the dollar began at a very, very young age. I can almost pinpoint the exact moment when things went amiss…

I was about seven-years old and it was my birthday so my family celebrated at a Chuckie Cheese-type establishment. After several hours of skeeball, animal claw and whack-a-mole, my parents blew the last call whistle on game-time. I immediately shoveled my armload of tickets onto the prize counter, never taking my eyes off of a pink flamingo Beanie Baby knock off that had my name written all over it. But, much to my disappointment, I was a hundred tickets short. The angst-ridden teen behind the counter haphazardly offered me feather pens, plastic teddy bears filled with bubble soap, sticker books with chintzy clowns on them, but my attention wasn’t on his measly penance, I needed to find Plan B and fast. I hustled to my dad who had reached his fun-limit for the year. But, once he heard the quiver in my voice and saw the crocodile tears pooling in his birthday girl’s big blue eyes as my limp, deprived hand weakly motioned to the pink flamingo between sobs it was go-time.  My dad zoned in like a Vietnam sniper. His first target, my brother. He tried to con the poor five-year old into giving me his tickets as a “birthday present” but his little heart was set on plastic handguns that will break before we get home. My fury towards the toddler burned through into his soul while he collected his winnings but I wasn’t giving up.

My dad never skipped a beat, he stomped over to the counter where my tickets still lay unclaimed. He shoved fifty real, non-Monopoly dollars at the pasty clerk and pointed at the pink flamingo.

But, to my horror, it didn’t fly. The clerk stood firm. There was to be no bartering in his court that day.

I did not, in fact, get my much-deserved prize, however, I did learn that if I don’t have enough tickets, there are always backup options.

Since this dastardly day, I have since tantrumed my way into getting a pony, puppies, cars, apartments, computers, more cars, tuition and a tab that more than likely exceeds the federal deficit. But, I think I might actually be growing up since it’s been a few months since I’ve even needed my dad’s deep pockets. I mean, sure, I still blow my paychecks in two days and then live off of PBJs for the next two weeks until I can spend it on steak dinners and cigarettes but I’m trying to wean myself off of the parental teat. Maybe I’m just trying to erase God’s memory so, by the time I conceive, Karma won’t be lurking with a pink beanie baby and 18-years of payback.