Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cowboy Boots in the Garage: A Conversation with my Mother

Recent events have had me thinking about the relationship between moms and daughters.  My mom just recently moved from out of state to be closer to my sister and me, and my best friend just gave birth to her first child, a daughter.  The relationship between moms and daughters has been notoriously complicated, especially through those tenuous teenage years.  It's that struggle for independence mixed with the desire to be known and appreciated as a woman and a person on our own merits.  That relationship daughters have with their mothers moves through many changes-- from that euphoric feeling of that tender relationship at birth, to those crazy roller coaster teenager years, to growing up and learning how to relate to each other as women and as adults.  And I heard someone say something the other day that struck me as very profound.

Most of us never really know our mothers as people.  So many times we leave our moms cast in that role of wife and/or mother and/or caretaker and never see past that.  Sometimes we can forget that before we came along, our moms were crazy, wonderful, interesting women in their own right!  They have stories to tell that sometimes never get told because we don't take the time out to ask.  Or maybe we don't even think to ask.  Mom is mom and that's it-- I mean, I am the very center of her universe, am I not?! 

So when it struck me that so many of us never get to know our mothers as women and as actual people, I started to evaluate my relationship with my mom.  I have been fortunate, especially in my adult years, to be able to know my mother as a person.  I've been able to walk with her through things in her life that showed me she wasn't just my  mom-- she is a person with thoughts and feelings of her own.  I've seen her vulnerable and I've seen her strong.  I've seen her be both dependent and independent. I've heard her get tickled at little things and I've also heard her weep.  It's been such a cool experience as a daughter to get to know my mom as an individual outside of the role she plays in my life.   And while I was thinking about all these things and the relationships we have with our moms, I decided to ask my mom a few questions and see if she'd be open to participating in this blog post.  And she agreed.  I asked her a few questions and she responded.  So without further ado, I give you wise words from my mother, Shery.

What did you always want to be growing up?

I always wanted to be a teacher or in politics– when I was growing up there really weren’t that many options for girls growing up in northwest Arkansas to aspire to. Not many role models beyond teachers and moms. Teaching, nursing, secretary, bookkeeper – those were the most prevalent career options.  I kind of wanted to be President but that wasn’t an option at all – at least not for a little girl from small town Arkansas!

What is your favorite childhood memory?

I don’t know if I can define it to just one memory. I remember seeing my mom’s cowboy boots in an old wardrobe in the garage. They were green and red and I remember thinking, “Wow, these are my mom’s boots…" I would have never imagined my mom in cowboy boots.  I remember thinking the boots were really cool looking but strange that they belonged to my mom. Who knows, maybe they represented some sort of hidden inner cowgirl side of her – they were in the garage in an old wardrobe.  I think it might have been good for me to see her wearing them!

I loved my kitten, Buzzy. He was gray and looked like every other cat around. He had an extremely loud purr, hence his name. I loved Buzzy! He wandered off one day and never came home.

My third grade teacher called me out in the hall one day and handed me a tiny booklet -a small imitation of an encyclopedia- and a pen and told me she wanted me to represent the third graders on student council. I thought that was pretty cool, and I’ve never forgotten it. Perhaps because it was important to me that someone would place that much confidence in me.  Representing third graders is a big deal when you’re a third grader!

Looking at and reading over and over again, the book, The Snowiest Day. It’s a beautiful book. The colors are incredibly vivid. I bought myself a copy just a couple of years ago.

My dad let me pick out the Christmas gift wrap for Strouds. [My grandparents owned a clothing department store in Rogers, AR called Strouds.] I loved that job and looked forward to it every year. I would spend hours flipping through the gift wrap catalog and then get to wrap the gifts for customers at Christmas.

What is one of the best things you’ve learned from your mother?

That life is too short to work all of the time, 24-7. One should rest a bit and have some fun before it’s too late. Actually, I learned this from watching my mom work so hard and for so long – it’s not something she actually taught me. I learned it from observing her life. She thrived on work then lost her health when it was too late to have some fun.  I’d like to have a more balanced life.

I learned lots of practical things from my mom. Like how to take care of things. I learned how to work hard and how to tend to details.

What one thing do you think every woman should know?

Every woman should have the opportunity to know that she is truly loved for who she is. And every woman deserves to have a poem written about her.  That person who truly loves her will probably write the poetry…or perhaps some prose.

Did you always want to become a mom? 

I guess I should really be honest here. Here’s the truth – before I was a mom, I never gave being a mom much thought.  I babysat twice in high school and didn’t like it at all. Little kids scared me. I just didn’t know what to do with them. I was never the little girl who wanted to dress up and play house or play with dolls. I had brothers. I was a tomboy.  I loved to play outside, play football, play catch, ride bikes, play kick-the-can, swim, and run faster than any of the boys.  I despised ruffles and bows and pink. So the idea of being a mom was just really never part of my thought life. 

What was one of your best moments as a mother?

Multiple moments of hugs and kisses from two absolutely beautiful little girls named Ashly and Dani.

What do you consider to be your greatest personal accomplishment to date?

No question; hands down – Ashly Cochran and Dani Boyles.

What are some things hope you accomplish in the future personally and/or professionally?

Personally – I hope to experience that love can last and that people can be more giving than they are selfish. The older I get the more I understand how important it is to notice, to pay attention and enjoy something in every day, and truly appreciate the immediate environment- seeing beauty in the physical world whether it’s the shape, shades of green and yellow, and the sweet taste of a pear or taking in the frenzied brush strokes and vibrant colors of a Van Gogh. It’s nice to be to be amazed by the orange low-hanging sun on the Dallas horizon. I’d like to just enjoy being.

Professionally – [Mom is the Director of Admissions at a local university.] Professional accomplishment isn’t as important to me as it was even five years ago. I’ve realized that I’m not going to be President or Secretary of State and bring about world peace. But, if I can help the school establish an admission and recruitment strategy for reaching out to area schools (primarily first-generation college students), I feel like I’ll have had a hand in helping individuals and communities build a more secure future. I’ll settle for that. 

If you could give one piece of advice to your children/future grandchildren, what would it be?

One piece? One piece of advice is not enough to give unless it’s this – learn to tell the difference between good advice and bad advice. Here’s my list:
  • Be honest with yourself and with others
  • Don’t let others define your dreams.
  • Read a lot.
  • Ask why.
  • Learn to think in new ways about the world – stretch your mind – be open to new perspectives.
  • If you have the legs and health to do it, run a long distance just so you’ll understand that if you’re called upon to do more than you think you can- you can.
  • Thank you are two words that are always appropriate.
  • Study hard.
  • When you get to college study something you love and don’t worry about the job afterward.
  • Loving is hard and it’s scary. But it’s worth it.

Wise words, indeed.  You can clearly see why I'm so well-adjusted.  I have a stellar mother.  Thanks, mom.  :)


Andrea said...

Love! Thank you for the beautiful post. Perhaps your lovely mother should consider adding "author" to her growing list of accomplishments. I enjoyed reading your questions and her responses.

Denise said...

What an incredible post! Thank you SO much for sharing this -- and your Mom -- with the world.

Ashly said...

Thanks, ladies! :)