“Kimberly, get an abortion.”
That was what my Nanny told my mother in disgust when she found out her 19-year-old daughter was pregnant with me.
I was raised by a single mother. She never married. She had no long-term committed partner. I remember her dating twice, but those men weren’t good enough in my eyes. My father was never in the picture. I don’t remember him in the “live” version even once. There are a few photos I’ve seen in the mix of a man, cigarette in his mouth and a toy horse. Maybe he was entertaining the idea of parenting, I mean there was a toy.
Growing up I had uncles around. They were my male figures. I can remember the home we lived at in Atlantic City from memory and can see the images from photo albums. I remember my pop-pop too, vaguely. A day of lobsters on the table. My uncle Dave, he always had crabs in the bottom drawer of his refrigerator. I’d like to jump back in if it were possible, to about 1979 and make sense of some things. Just turned 41 and having some ongoing heart issues, not knowing my Dad, thinking this has to be hereditary. Maybe? Possibly. Or I’ve loved too hard. Have I worn this heart out? Thinking, so I never got the father figure in my life AND now I have this heart.
But, I did get this Mom. She raised me alone and did an incredible job. I’m a lot of her, being a ‘Miss Independent.’ I’m tough because of her. My mom is my mom. No matter how much she can drive me crazy. She makes me laugh, she says the damnedest things. She asked once at a Chinese buffet restaurant if anyone there spoke English. The poor waitress didn’t understand she was ordering a club soda with lemon. I wanted to crawl under the table. She said to me at maybe 17 about prom, “Ask God if you can go to prom.” I’m sure I gasped.. and I immediately said, “He said YES!” My Mom has her faith in God and it’s a serious subject in her heart. I did go to prom by the way. I have said to her several times that I would write about her after she leaves the earth jokingly, but in this, I am celebrating her.
She made hard choices to make life better for herself and our little family. In the early 1980s, she moved us from New Jersey to Pennsylvania. She chose to put herself through college for her first degree while she was working cleaning buses and pumping gas. I didn’t want her to go to college in a town called Nanticoke and cried thinking it was far. At the time I thought Nanticoke was as far as Nantucket. That’s eight hours from me instead of about twenty minutes. A little bit of confusion. A funny confusion that is.
She hasn’t had life easy, but she hasn’t let that beat her. She is an example of perseverance, determination, stillness when things get difficult. and to not quit. I can tell you pieces of stories that are much too deep. We may not agree most times or it’s just the mother and daughter butting heads thing, but what an incredible example of how to be, survive, and thrive in the chapters of life. What I wanted most for Christmas the one year, think I was thirteen, I got! White roller skates and a red coat. I can see her hugging me after my graduation from college and from this past Sunday, with her thinking I was talking about her to my friends.
I was in yoga on Tuesday evening. The fifteen minutes of calm, corpse pose after the forty-five minutes of all the down dog positions, crow, and palms to heart. In that calm state, my relaxed mind floated to how incredible my Mom is, to write about her now and not when she’s dead. Minutes later she texted me, “If I ever lose my memory please DO NOT put me in a nursing home! I need to go to Oregon and get an MD to assist with my departure.” I replied, “Mom .. I was just having nice thoughts about you!!! Your timing!!!”
Again, My mom is my mom. No matter how much at times she drives me crazy. She makes me laugh, she says the damnedest things. I love her. I’m who I am because she created this masterpiece of me.
Fast forward to the day my Nanny had passed away. There was a snow storm, it was five, six in the morning. Who was there at the hospital first, by her side as her body fought with machines keeping her alive? Me. My mom arrived shortly after. I held her hand, consoling telling my Mom, “her body is tired, it’s time to let go.”