The Story: How do you tell a story about your mom? Where do you even begin?
For my 40th birthday, my mom gave me a photo album of pictures of me throughout my life. While she was digging through all her photos to put it together, she found some old slides that she always knew existed but could never find: pictures of her and me when I was only three days old. Her favorite aunt had taken them on the porch at her grandmother’s house and she could never figure out where they went. She printed them and framed one for me, in addition to the photo album, and – let me tell you – she looks like a baby. She was a baby – only 20 at the time and married to my dad a scant eight months earlier.
Theirs is one of the great love stories, though, because they’re still together three kids and all these years later and having what looks like more fun than ever.
Each of my parents has a story about me as a kid that they love to tell. My mom’s is from the day I started kindergarten. When I got home from school that day and she asked me how school was, I said “Oh mom, you should see all those little kids. They’re so cute!” Apparently, I’ve always been precocious.
But this blog is full of stories about my friendships so let me try to focus on that aspect of my relationship with my mom. Otherwise, you’ll be reading this post for a LONG time. (I keep thinking of stories to tell, so you’re probably already going to be reading this for a long time!)
My mom and I were always close. To say that we grew up together would be accurate. I remember being 12 or 13 and us being mistaken for sisters by people at a party who didn’t know us that well. I remember being 15 or 16 and talking her into “paying half” for clothes that I wanted. (She’ll remember all the times we went shopping and I “forgot my wallet.”) I remember all the times in my teens and 20s when she encouraged me to wear short skirts saying that she lived vicariously through my long legs. She bought me a silver Tiffany’s charm bracelet for my birthday when I turned 28 and I’ve hardly taken it off since (literally).
I was a boomerang kid before an entire generation started doing it (there’s that precocious again). When I moved home after living in Boston for 12 years, I moved home, as in, back in with my parents. On purpose.
When it would come up in conversation, some people would make faces or express horror in varying levels, but it never bothered me – I actually like my parents. I ended up living with them for five years and I thought it was great. I was able to develop actual adult relationships with my parents, which is pretty cool. We became friends, which I think is rare. So much so, that I invited them to join me and a few of my best friends for a trip to Paris to celebrate my 40th birthday last year. We had a complete blast. It was the trip of a lifetime.
Not too long ago, I told my mom how I was amazed at the stories that my grammar-school friends Karen and Ginny related to me during our drink. I either didn’t know, or had forgotten, that I was so bold as a child. Both stories were about me wandering off and doing my own thing, without a care in the world.
Her response: “And you wonder why we had you on such a short leash as a teenager?”
Ahhhhhhhh. I suppose not, when you put it that way.
For the most part, though, my mother has always encouraged my boldness. In 2004, I was working as the associate publisher of Business NH Magazine, the state’s only monthly business magazine. I had been there for almost two years and was looking for a new challenge. In a strange mix of circumstances that still seem nearly inexplicable – even to me – eight years later, the opportunity to own and run my own magazine arose. It was a hell of a deal. It was crazy. It was a proposition so scary that I could hardly comprehend its magnitude, but also cool beyond words.
It was my mom who encouraged me to quit my job and take the leap. I thought she would try to talk me out of it and tell me to take the safe road with at the established (and highly esteemed) job I already had. In fact, I was sort of hoping that she would, but she didn’t. I remember very specifically the day we were driving to Exeter to visit Ben and Amy and she said that I should do it and that I would always regret not doing it. She was right, so I did.
A friend of a friend traveled almost constantly and so I set up camp at her apartment in Washington D.C. for a month to check it out, work with the magazine, get to know the staff and see the guts of the operation, all while negotiating details with the owner and preparing for the transition. In the end, I decided not to do the deal and that’s ok. There were too many unknowns and gray areas for my gut to ignore. The seller was a businessman who tried to bully and shame me into being ok with the unknowns. After all that, after leaving a perfectly good job, after saying I was going to do this, after investing all the time into the deal, I had to say no.
It was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but everything turned out just the way it was supposed to. And it was my mom on the other end of the phone with me talking me through it the whole time.
I never thought I would start my own business. I always wondered what I could possibly do that people would actually pay for. I never thought I was that good at anything. Buying a somewhat operational magazine with a few years’ track record made sense to me. When that fell through, I thought I’d just go and get another job – and I did. When I did end up starting my own business a few years after that, my mom was one of the people who not only cheered me on (recurring theme here) but also convinced me it was a completely reasonable thing for me to do.
I got back from Washington and went to work for a law firm for a couple of years and, when I left there, I worked with a career counselor for a few months to figure out my next step. At the same time, I started doing some freelance work on the side, just to keep some money coming in. After a few months, it became apparent to me that the thing that made the most sense was to start my own business. The career counselor had just been waiting for me to come to the conclusion myself. As I started telling people about it, I was met over and over again with reactions that sounded a lot like, “duh, of course.” It seems that I was the only one who was surprised at the outcome.
My mom continues to be one of my biggest fans and staunchest supporters, from running to my house to pick me up off the ground after I fell down a flight of stairs, to supporting me through personal and professional ups and downs. Just this week she rescued me when my car blew a tire. She’s always there and I can’t imagine it any other way.
Truth be told, this is the hardest post I’ve written so far, and has been giving me trouble for a little while. My mom has always been so good to me that I felt an immense amount of (self-imposed) pressure to write something beautiful, something poignant, something funny and something perfect for her. Then I realized that it would take a much better writer than me to truly capture how amazing my mom is to me and what she means to me, so I let myself off the hook (somewhat) and just wrote the stories that came to mind because that’s what she would have told me to do.
The Drink: Ironically, my parents have never been big drinkers. I very clearly get my drinking genes from my aunts and uncles on my dad’s side. However, during the five years I lived with my parents after moving home from Boston, I turned my mom on to wine. Her previous experience had been cheap wine that gave her a three-day headache without even the decency of providing a great buzz. Ah, cheap wine in the 70s.
Today, she’s a bit of a connoisseur of Sauvignon Blancs, her and my favorite varietal, with her favorites being from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. That said, our absolute favorite wine is Evolution #9, a blend of nine varietals that make magic when mixed together and allowed to ferment appropriately. It’s even got a great tagline, which I’ve always loved: Chill. Pour. Sip. Chill.
So mom and I shared a bottle of Evolution at dinner at Piccola Italia and toasted to the absurdity that she’s actually old enough to have a 40-year-old daughter!