Dear Fellow Travelers,
This morning I sat on the patio enjoying an unusual July day, 80° with a lovely, gentle rain. It’s just the kind of day my mother would have loved. I have now officially spent half my life without her. It’s a strange reality, but I’m not complaining. Many women lose their mothers at a much younger age than I or never have the blessing of having had a mother who became a best friend in adult years. We could shop together and pull out the same dress or pair of slacks from the rack at exactly the same moment saying, “Oh! Look at this!” I can see her laughing and smiling now. . .
My mother loved life and she knew how to enjoy it. She was the kind of mother that knew how to turn a dull day into an adventure. From the time I was a young child and even into my college years, if I was sick or the weather required we stay inside, she would invent a game or pull out boxes of this and that to teach me a new craft. I still remember the year I was home on winter break and was stuck in the house for days with a stomach flu. She pulled out skeins of yarn and taught me how to crochet granny squares. When I was well again, we ventured out and bought enough yarn to make an entire blanket. I returned to school dragging along an extra carry-on full of yarn. The idea was that we would each make squares, she mailing the ones she crocheted to me in Texas and I would connect them to complete the project. It was her way of staying connected while I was 1,800 miles away. Every time we talked after that she would chide me good-naturedly about how lax I was in keeping up my end of the work.
Life did not always provide her with reasons to be joyful, but she knew how to appreciate what is and live in hope of what could be. Graduating from high school in 1945 just as the war was coming to a close, she told me the story of dancing with girls at prom because there simply were no boys available. Some women would have related this as a sad story, but not my mom. Every story was part of the adventure of life. After an extended illness, faced with divorce and no recent work experience, she picked herself up and created a new life. Her struggle with bitterness was short lived as she chose to let it go, knowing that resentment would only cause her damage. She knew how to find the good in people, release anger and celebrate them for who they were. Forgiveness came naturally to her, but not in the vibration of disempowerment.
Watching her in the years she worked to put together a life from a bare foundation taught me that change and transformation are possible. This lesson served me well when she died. I was 29 years old with two small children, in a job that was overwhelming and struggling with my marriage. It took months for me to be able to even breathe properly. Her death, I’ve now realized, was one of her last gifts to me. In that space of anguish and the feeling of being completely alone in the world, I discovered possibly the most powerful truth I know; happiness is a choice, not a place at which we arrive.
My mother was hardly a saint, she was a flesh and blood human being with her own share of regrets, but she was tough and met disappointment head on. In a time when women often had little power over their environment, she learned to let go of past hurts and keep her heart open. In other words, she chose happiness. So, on this cool rainy day, as my mind trips across memories of my mom and a special granny square blanket, I wish you eyes to see life as an adventure to be celebrated with joy, free from the restrictions of bitterness or regrets. Free to choose happiness.
Oh, I almost forgot. . .today my mother would have been 86 years old. Happy birthday Mom.
“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times,
if one only remembers to turn on the light.”