My Mom is named Linda and it fits her like a glove. Ah que linda, tellement belle. When I think of her, the image that comes to mind is of light, so this will be glowing. I know of no other terms or styles that apply. Actually, my very first memory is of sitting on the kitchen floor and she is standing over me. The open refrigerator door is shining around her and she is smiling. I tell you, my Mom is far too funny to be a saint but it is not bad as first memories go. I appreciate what a gift that is.
Not long after that influential moment, we moved back to the farm where she herself had grown up, a Civil War era house so far off the map that mail arrived addressed to « Robinson Road ». She was still a kid herself, I see that now, only eighteen when she had my Sister with me following four years later. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that she simply adopted the fine example that her Mother had set before her.
We always enjoyed excellent home-cooked meals and while the kitchen was stewing, she would open the back door and say, « Out you go. » I was four and my days were spent playing in the woods, imaginary games. I learned to rely on myself, knowing that home was never far. Once my Mom reclaimed her childhood love for horses, my afternoons were spent in the barn working hard…from the ground up.
Flexible yet firm
Having come from a very traditional background, she braved the possible stamp of oddness by developing a dedication to her yoga practice (pretty much unheard of at the time and certainly in the Midwest), eventually going away for retreats and becoming a teacher. Yes, my Mom had long flowing locks but there was nothing hippyish about her. Throughout my childhood and into my teens she was incredibly strict about manners, kindness and honesty.
If my Sister and I were foolish enough to continue misbehaving in the backseat after her warning, « Don’t make me turn this car around, » she would. Physical remonstrance was not in her playbook, nor was it even remotely necessary as there was nothing that could make me cry faster than the dreaded phrase « Heather… I am disappointed in you. » It wasn’t a game or manipulation, she was always sincere with us and I felt the bond of Love behind those words.
For we were a little band, a tight unit. As my Dad climbed the corporate ladder, he pulled us along with him. There were times in the early days when we had money and those when we really didn’t. She instilled in me the importance of appreciating « the little things » regardless of finances and hid from me when she made sacrifices, such as her buying a gorgeous vintage cocktail gown for my prom, despite that we couldn’t even begin to afford it.
We moved so often that I was perpetually the new girl in town and so was she. So what a fine thing it was that I had my Mom for company. We traveled to as far as Cairo together and roamed the streets of New Orleans (where two men tried to pick us up, thinking that she was my Sister!). But the everyday joy of talking for hours around the kitchen table is what has stayed with me the most. As I grew older, our relationship morphed slightly. She was still my Mom, will always be my Mom but she is also my friend.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
I admire strongly how she chose her own way, confident in the fact that she wanted to « only » be a stay-at-home Mom, this amidst the societal rise of feminism. And when I started to go against the grain myself, in terms of extravagant dress and theatrical behavior, she backed me up, even though we were living on the edge of Amish country at the time. I took it for granted then but see how hard it must have been on her. People would point at me in public, family packed cars would slow down in passing to stare and she wouldn’t bat an eye. Which told me to go, keep going. And I did. When I announced my intentions to become a theatre actress, I was warmly encouraged. And I can tell you that I saw many a talented colleague that let their dreams fall by the wayside due to a family that said « no » or « you are not good enough ». That was never an issue for my Sister (who went on to Broadway) or I.
Along with my Dad, she would fly across the country to see my shows in New York City and at the Yale School of Drama, whenever she could. Again, I had nothing but a strong hand of belief resting on the small of my back. But when I fell head over heels in love with a Frenchman and, exhausted from a life of perpetual auditioning decided to change directions entirely, she stood by that too. I know how fortunate we are to share such trust but I also see clearly that she chose to create it consciously and fed that fire with time.
Does distance make the heart grow fonder?
Since I moved overseas, we don’t see each other nearly as often as we would like, once a year at most. My missing her and my Sister is without a doubt my greatest challenge in being an expat. I was far during my Dad’s illness and death. I was far when she had to completely start her life over after 43 years of marriage and under the most challenging of circumstances. And yet she did. She did. What an incredible lesson for me to learn.
Am I sad not to be able to be with her this Christmas? Very much so. She and my Dad did everything they could to make every holiday special. My heart is full with wonderful memories. But I will wait and look forward to being at her side when she marries her wonderful fiancée this spring. Because she continues to move forward, her spirit remains open and active. She took a rough and tumble voyage through India and Nepal to follow in the path of Buddha’s life last year, one that left many a younger fellow traveler exhausted.
Go, go, and keep going. I believe in you.
These are the gifts she has given me. This is her light, a beacon, and one that I will try to follow for the rest of my life.
I actually owe thanks to my Mom for inspiring what would be my first time being published… in the Lansing, Michigan newspaper. I think that I was nine and had won a poetry contest. Here is what I can remember of the poem:
My Mom means a lot to me
Because I love her a whole lot you see,
She shows she always cares
And she is always more than fair…
Her beauty, one that she wears lightly, continues to shine. Linda, ah que linda, inside and out.
® Heather Robinson
Read more from the Mother Daughter Series here.
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