My mom gets a lot of flak, especially from my sister and I. Something about mothers and daughters seems to inspire a lot of teasing and nitpicking from the daughter’s end. But my mom says some things, and Liz and I can’t stop ourselves from laughing. It all started when we were in high school and my mom said “shmoosh” instead of “smash”. From then on, she has found herself at the butt of a lot of our jokes.

Aside from our relentless picking, when I think back to our childhood and youth, my memory doesn’t hold up like I wish it would. (I am turning 30 in less than a month, so I think the signs of age are starting to pick away at my earliest memories.) But I do vividly remember a few things about my mom being my mom.

Because we grew up in the small town of Hampshire, IL, we were able to be involved in everything. Clumsy, trip-over-her-own-feet me was even accepted to sports teams just because we didn’t have enough people trying out to make cuts. In one high school year I performed Claire de Lune in a piano recital, played volleyball and cheerleaded for basketball, played Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, and participated in church youth group and choir. Multiply my stuff by 3 for my siblings, and we had a busy family.

But when I think back to my mom, I remember that she was there. For all of it. It wasn’t even a question of if she could make it; somehow she’d be in the stands. (Yes, even the stands for the play—remember, it was a small town, so our gym converted into a stage for a fabulous gymnatorium.) She even came to almost every game to watch me ride the bench in volleyball. (And yes, I rode the bench—as long as 6 other girls were healthy and present, I was a designated stats keeper. I was that bad! I wisely quit my senior year, with no protest from the coach.)

And not only was she there, she chaperoned, brought me to lessons, and cooked dinners. She even set out breakfast in the morning, for crying out loud. (Even if sometimes it was just setting out a bowl of cereal—who does that?)

My dad was in the hospital frequently the year I mentioned above. The strangest thing about having a sick family member is that the world keeps turning. The morning alarm keeps going off and you keep having to wake up, go to school, eat meals, do homework. The games, the recitals, the plays—they don’t stop either. And I don’t remember a hiccup in my mom’s support.

We have family videos from my younger years we pull out when we’re feeling nostalgic. And when I watch them, I often think—man, I was a pain in the butt. A few quotes to demonstrate:
1. Me, 7 years old: Do you want to save this wrapping paper? (After carefully untaping and avoiding any wrinkles.) Mom: No, that’s okay. Me: Suit yourself! *said with nose turned upward*
2. After the annual Thanksgiving wishbone tug was won by the boys. *Liz, age 7, crying in the corner, curled in a little ball.* *Me, age 9, swoops into center camera view. Me: *sing-songy* I’m a good sport.

I am appalled when I watch these videos. Mostly because I cannot believe it. I always thought I was such a good person. And I wonder, when I see myself as such a stinker—why was I so mistaken about what a good kid I was? But I’m certain of the answer—aside from a small dose of self-righteous middle child syndrome, I knew that I was loved. I never had one smidgeon of doubt about it. My mom had so much love for me, as her child, that you could fill a gymnatorium with it. She loved my bratty, selfish little shmooshy face off, and she would continue loving me no matter how much I picked on her. She loved me so much that she would be there—no matter where there was.

We aren’t that lovey-dovey, warm and fuzzy in our family. But the cold hard truth—and don’t tell her I said this—I think she’s a great person. (I hear Annie from Wonderful Life yelling from the kitchen now…”It’s about time one of you lunkheads said it!”) I have one solid hope for myself as a mother—that WV will look back on our time together and say that I was there. There in the very present, very devoted, and very unselfish way that my mom was for me.

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