When my mother was planning her vacation dates, she asked me if I could take off some time too, and spend a few days or a week at home with her. I felt happy that my mom wanted me all to herself: she wanted us to spend time together over the Summer, before my baby arrives in the Fall. Everyone, myself included, has been so excited for our little girl’s arrival in September, busy with preparations and buying gifts for baby. But my mother continues to just shower me, buying me maternity clothes and great pieces to decorate our new house with. It’s not that she isn’t excited to be a grandma, and I know she will fall in love with this little girl and soon I will come second, but for now, I am still her baby.
My mother and I have always been close. While I had a great group of friends in elementary and in high school, and was always going out on weekends, I stayed home most weeknights to hang with my mom. Nights spent cooking dinner together and watching “90210” or “Melrose Place” was what I loved most. While I have the best group of girls, my mom was, and still is, my best friend. While she never grounded my brother or I as teens, and we were given much more freedom than most our age, the prospect of her being mad at me following a night spent out too late was a big deterrent: it’s not fun to have your bestie mad at you when you want to hang out. One friend later said she and my other girlfriends wondered how I would ever cope without Bonbon (as most affectionately call my mother Bonnie)!? When I went away to university, only two hours away, we continued to talk daily and I was able to get home once a month. But this got harder when I graduated from university and chose to take a year of Journalism school on the East Coast. We had to get used to talking only every other day and seeing each other at holidays. I then surprised even myself by signing up to teach English in Japan for not one, but almost two years. This meant we could only speak once a week sometimes (Skype would have made things so much easier!). I went a year without seeing my mom, other family or friends at home, and while it was so hard, I definitely grew as a person and gained independence.
I have always admired my mother for how independent and strong she is, and I wanted to be more like her. The only person I can even compare her to is the title character in the show “Roseanne”: I grew up watching the sitcom, and saw so many parallels between the lovably tough, funny TV mom and my own mother. Roseanne was the realest mom I had ever seen on television. She loved her kids unconditionally, showed them lots of affection, but she didn’t sugar coat things, and nothing was off limits. I love this approach: talking openly to your kids about things, and not pretending the world is all unicorns and rainbows, no matter how much I really wish it were!
While my mother and I are both warm and affectionate, like to laugh and are not afraid to speak our minds, there are big differences in our personalities which made for some major conflicts growing up. I am bubbly and overly talkative (kindly called “motormouth” by my family), and was a major people pleaser (I see that changing as I have gotten older; caring less about others’ opinions of me, which is freeing and something I definitely learned from my mom!). Bonnie is honest to a fault, sarcastic and has a great dry sense of humour (perfectly suited to loving British comedy, something she did long before I fell for a Brit!). She didn’t go to university, but Bonnie has a quick wit and street smarts. I excelled at school, but I definitely have my blond moments. She has a thick skin, while I am overly sensitive. We may both be softies and cry easily when watching sad movies (even a heartwarming commercial can send us to tears!), but she is able to control her emotions much better than me. She is a happy person, but doesn’t get overly excited or down in the dumps, while I am one moody chick who “feels things strongly”, as she explained to Jon when we were first dating (thanks Mom!!). Being an independent woman, and not needing to be in a relationship to be happy was important for me, but it is Bonnie who exemplifies this. She has always told me I didn’t need to get married or even had kids if I didn’t want to, but I am a hopeless romantic and fell for all that romantic comedies were selling. She doesn’t like that movie genre and even hates when a love interest pops up to wreck an otherwise good action flick.
So when I when I chose to quit my dream job, and move away from family and friends, to be with Jon, I was initially worried about how my mom would react. I was worried about leaving her, but I was also worried that she wouldn’t get why I was doing it. I had been vocal about finding a fulfilling career, and after years of not truly loving what I did, I had finally found my dream job. I was also in the process of realizing another dream by starting my Master’s degree. But I made the decision to move, to do it for the love of an amazing man, but also for the prospect of a future family, because while career and grad school were important, more than anything I dreamed of someday becoming a mother. I thought my own mother wouldn’t understand this, choosing love, in its various forms, over career and the security of living life in your hometown amongst family and friends. But without much explanation on my part, she completely got it. She may not be a sappy romantic like me, but she knows what it means to be a mother.
When I went home, I got to talk with two close friends whose own mothers are ill. Hearing what their mothers are going through, and what they themselves are struggling with, made me even more appreciative of my own mother and our relationship. One friend said she would take back all the things she got annoyed at in her mother (we all have those, the things our parents do that just bug us!), if it meant she would have her back just the way she was. No matter how much I may cringe at it, I cannot imagine never hearing my mom say “Oh Bree” again, when I have done something silly. I cannot fathom not hearing her sarcastic tone as she picks at some star on TV. And I would even miss her many impressions (her doing Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” takes the cake!). Most of all I cannot imagine not being able to hug her, and tell her I love her. After I spoke with this friend, I immediately went home and hugged my mom, crying into her arms, telling her I never wanted to lose her. Ever the realist, Bonnie said that someday I would have to live without her, but that we had time together now, and that she would always be with me, just as her mother is always with her.
I have been given an amazing mother to model myself after: I can become the things I admire most in her, while still being Bree. We are different people, and yet at the core, we are the same. And I have the chance to pass on to my own daughter all the things my mother taught me: that it is important to be kind, and to treat others well; that it isn’t about winning, but having fun; that a good hug makes everything better and laughter is the best medicine; and, that life can be shitty, but you need to learn to soldier through and if nothing else, not take yourself too seriously. She has taught me that a woman can be both strong and sweet; that being smart is more important than being pretty; that beauty is more than skin deep, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. Most of all, she has instilled in me the belief that you don’t need to define your happiness by society’s or anyone’s standards, because you get to decide how to live your life and be happy on your own terms. Bonnie has said many times that all she ever wanted was for her children to be happy. Well Bonbon, mission accomplished: you have a very happy daughter who couldn’t be more excited to become a mom herself, all because you showed her how to love like only a mother can.