The snow outside my car window swirled and fell on the dark pavement like a heavy, wet blanket. As our headlights punctured through the curtain of frozen rain I remember glancing at my mother in the driver's seat thinking to myself, "Are we going to make it home through this storm?"
My mom, myself, and one of my very close girlfriends were making our way back from Chicago after spending the weekend exploring colleges. Normally driving from our home in Michigan to Chicago took roughly four hours . . . and we were going on six on this wintery return journey. Lots of cars were parked on the shoulder, waiting it out, and semi trucks sped past our slow moving car and miles down the road we discovered them spun out on the side of the road. My mom said to us, "I don't understand these people. They are driving so fast, hurried to get to their homes or scared to move at all and if they just went slow but steady they'd make it ok." Although it ended up taking us 9 hours to reach our own Welcome mat, this simple trip, this lesson stuck with me for many reasons that echoed the overreaching lessons my mother taught me.
Today is Mother's Day and I wanted to say a few words to my mother about how very much I appreciate and love her and every part of our ever growing and evolving relationship as daughter and mother. Our relationship through the years has mostly been great, but like all children who grow-up I suspect there are times when they don't understand their parents or get embarrassed by their actions (mostly because I think it's in the Parent Rule Book when we are all born that they must embarrass us all).
Today I recognize that this confusion is all apart of being young and that although embarrassment is always bound to happen, you can control the way you react to it and even laugh at yourself and join in on it.. sometimes. :)
Using that fateful Chicago trip as one example of many, I learned some key lessons from my mother about life and how to live it that have stood the test of a lot of my challenges and struggles and that have definitely shaped who I am.
1. The biggest most important lesson is on Fear.
My mother was always the first one to say, "You won't know until you try/ask/call/ or try again." She never let any situation that was unfamiliar to her keep her from going after what she wanted. She was always curious. My mom wasn't afraid to just keep driving, cautiously and slow, but she kept driving because the weather - the fear of what the weather was like - wasn't going to control how she reacted to a situation. My mom has many times walked right up to complete strangers and asked for directions, cooed at babies, and just blurted out conversation, because she really has no fear in what other people think of her or how she lives her life. If she needed directions, ok lets just ask by pulling into this driveway and asking the nice man mowing his lawn or if we were lost and no one was around (before Google maps) she'd say, "Well let's just try this road or this exit and see where it takes us. We can always turn around."
My wonderful, loving mother always approached situations head on and taught me that I needed to replace the fear of the unknown with curiosity.
2. Another crucial lesson that I learned was to travel. At every opportunity.
Some of my most fond memories come from traveling. My mother planted the seed early in my life that the world is a big place and I have the freedom to explore and discover it. She taught me that in life I needed to collect moments and memories, not things. Coming from a very small farming town (graduating class of 40 people), a lot of my classmates hadn't been any farther than the borders of the county or state. My mom encouraged myself and my sister to go to summer camp in New Hampshire for two weeks - starting when I was only about 9 years old. I ended up going every year for 5 years. When it was time to start thinking about colleges, my mom was the first to volunteer herself to drive me to Chicago and also encouraged my close friend who was also interested in a school there to come along as well. Today, I have traveled to Scotland, England, Chicago, New York, Turkey, Greece, and even last week to Nashville all on my own - and I owe these opportunities taken to my vivacious mom.
3. The last lesson that I wanted to share was a lesson of creating my own path.
My mom helped me to think about how I wanted to get where I was going in life and even if it didn't follow the smooth, paved path of everyone else that was ok. My mom taught me that even if there are obstacles - like 8 inches of snow - in the way that I needed to find a way to make a path to whatever goal I was heading for and not simply sit on the side of the road waiting for a clear and easy path in front of me.
My mom taught me that it's ok to go a little slower, but that I have to be moving on the road - no matter how fast or slow - to reach my destination.
Happy Mother's Day Mom!! I love you!