There’s a photo on my parent’s refrigerator back home of my mom and me—it’s a selfie of the two of us way before selfies were a thing. My hair was bleach, bright blonde and we both wore a pair of dark brown, oversized sunglasses. We were on our way to Austin for a weekend away, just us. I think about this photo often—it was taken, gosh, 14 years ago? I think of it often because in that photo, my mom and I have the exact, same smile and behind our bug-eyed sunglasses, it’s difficult to even tell us apart (but for the hairstyle) and I love knowing that there is another person out there who’s just like me. Not only that, but that person who’s out there who’s just like me happens to be one of the most important people in the world.
I’m one of the lucky ones: a daughter whose best friend has always been and will always be her mom. It goes all the way back to when I started forming memories. My mom and I were friends when she’d share milk-shakes with me in the car as we drove home from kindergarten—the Gin Blossoms or Spin Doctors jamming through the radio of our 1985 GMC Woody. We were friends when I fell out of the tree in our front yard in the second grade and although my pain was excruciating, we still laughed together after we reached safety following our realization that she’d turned the wrong way down a one-way road in Houston’s confusing-as-hell medical district. We were friends when, in the fifth grade I think, I left a Ziploc baggie of Cheez-its crumbs in the center console of that same GMC woody and instead of just throwing it away, my mom left it on my pillow the next day with a note that I should learn to throw away my own garbage. In retaliation, I left the baggie on her dresser. I found it a few days later in my sock drawer. It was then placed under her pillow. Back and forth, back and forth the baggie has gone between our changing residencies and just weeks ago, I found that same Ziploc baggie in a box of koozies in my utility room. (I’ll have you know, that two decades later, Cheez-its crumbs still look exactly the same which is very telling for either Cheez-Its or Ziploc.)
My mom and I were friends when my heart broke in my early twenties…both figuratively and literally. Still numb over the loss of friends and terrified in a hospital bed on my way into heart surgery, my mom held my hand and told me she’d be waiting for me on the other side—and that she loved me more than I could know. When my eyes opened in the recovery room, there she was with tear-streams down her soft cheeks and a smile waiting to tell me that I was going to be okay.
My mom and I were friends when Blackberry Messenger was still a thing—she was my only contact for a long time and I was totally okay with that—it being her messages that got me through the long afternoons of corporate paper pushing. We were friends when we attended our first yoga class together and then continued to attend that same class week after week for years. It would be a decade later that I’d be leading my own yoga sessions and wouldn’t you know that it was my mom who attended one of my first classes.
My mom believes in magic—the kind that floats around and connects us all to one another. She believes, wholeheartedly, that we’re responsible for one another—that if someone is suffering, we should help. That if someone is acting like an idiot, that there’s probably more to that story and maybe we should look to understand before snap-judging. That if you’re giving it your best…your real best…then that’s all you can do and that’s okay. She believes in gentleness and open-mindedness and forgiveness (even when *I* personally think that forgiveness in certain situations is no longer an option.) But my mom is stronger than me in that way.
My mom is the strongest person I know—she’s overworked and underappreciated and gives and gives and gives without question. She’s sensitive and she’s thoughtful—still giving me gifts in an Easter basket because why wouldn’t she? She bakes homemade cakes for her friend’s birthdays. She loves roses and knows just how to help the grow. She reads books aloud at the library for elementary students. She answers my midnight calls and calls me on my numbskull actions when I have them. She makes lunches for the members of her church. She loves King Ranch as if he were her own son and is impressed with every single thing that Little Foot does. She always does what’s right. She always thinks of others before herself. She never ever quits.
I think of that photo of the two of us on their fridge and I think how lucky I am to have, by chance, been her daughter but more importantly by choice, be her friend. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t talk to my mom, even if one of us is angry at the other. I am the spouse and the mother and the person I am today because of my mom and not a day goes by that I am not grateful for all she’s endured to raise my brothers and me. She gives so, so much and I can barely keep it together when I think of how much she means to me.
And here’s the thing—my mom will read this and her cheeks will blush and she’ll probably gripe at me to take it down because she’s too humble to have nice things said about her in any sort of a public forum—she’d rather the spotlight be on someone else. She’s modest like that. She’s never the kind of person to boast about herself even though I think she’s one of the few who actually deserves to. So if she tells me in seriousness to take this down, I will respect her wishes.
In the meantime…
I love you, mom, more than you could ever imagine—and I’m only capable of that because of the love you’ve instilled in me. The friendship that we’ve formed that continues to evolve is one of the best things in my life. I think of you every day and am grateful, beyond comprehension, for the woman that you are and the positive impact you continue to make on the world. I’m grateful that I was born your daughter and that you are who you are. Thank you for all that you’ve done and still do—I truly believe the world’s still on its axis because you’re here.
As my mother, my friend, and one of the people I most admire, I love you.
Happiest of birthdays to you.