College loomed four weeks ahead, gathering weight in the humid summer air.
“Where have you been?” she asked with a slight edge of annoyance.
“At home. Just hanging out.” She knew exactly where I had been. Friends since ninth grade, she had given up demonstrating disappointment after the third post-graduation week of my turning down invitations to lazily hang out with “everybody.”
“Yeah. About that. How did you know?” Her baiting skills were legendary.
“Know about what?” I bit.
She narrowed her eyes and jut out her lower jaw. I was going to make her say it. “How did you know that spending time at home before we leave was the right thing to do? You know, instead of hanging out with us every night. I feel like I’ve wasted my time. Your point, I’m sure.”
Four years of exposure to my need to be right was showing its silvery scars.
“My mom loves my dad more than she loves us. She told me as much. That’s how I know what memories will be important years from now.”
Four years of exposure to her baiting skills had made me a master.
I don’t remember when my mom first told me that she loved our dad more than she loved my brother and me. She did only tell me once, but it bears the same uncomfortable tint as when she used herself and my dad as examples during “the talk” when I was eleven or twelve.
I was shocked. Offended. My mom loving my dad more than her own children was surely a crime against nature. I immediately felt disposable. And infinitely more independent.
She didn’t even rush with her explanation. “I have to love your dad more than you guys. I’m stuck with him forever. You and your brother are going to leave one day. You should. I’m in it with your dad for the rest of my life. He has to be the most important person to me. Of course I love you. But after you leave, it’s just me and your dad. You’ll have your own life. My life is with him.”
The lesson that emerged for me, other than the lesson that my parents’ world did not revolve around me as I had hoped, was in perspective.
From that moment forward, I would weigh my decisions against outcomes measured in years, not days. “Will this matter a year from now? Five years from now? Ten?” would take the sting out of countless complicated events. Instinctive overreactions would be tempered by a deliberate willingness to see beyond what was right in front of me at that moment, as my mother had looked beyond the years of a full nest.
In the summer of 1995, I chose to spend significantly more time with my parents than with my friends because I knew that of the two, my relationship with my parents was the foundation that would bear more weight in the precarious years ahead.
A strong foundation that would prove vital to enduring a challenging freshman year at college a state away. Not to mention years of challenges in a life well-led.
I didn’t go home very frequently that first year away at college, but I knew exactly what I wanted to say to my mom the first time I saw her again.
“Thank you, Mom. I’m so glad I had the sense to spend the summer at home. I needed that reserve.”
P&G is the sponsor of Velveteen Mind and Story Bleed this month and next and, as such, are affording me this storied dive into motherhood. As part of their “Thank You Mom” campaign, I designed a storytelling angle focused on the last thing you said to your mom the most recent time you saw her and, more significantly, the first thing you will say to her when you see her again.
The first thing you will say when you see her again is significant because P&G is giving away 15 reunions every month through the end of November, including $1,000 toward travel expenses and a handheld video camera.
All you have to do to enter is visit ThankYouMom.com and share your story in under 600 characters, which is essentially one paragraph or four tweets.
Seriously, you are the equivalent of four tweets away from a reunion with your mom.
My mom lives a few blocks away. I don’t need a reunion with her, but I shared my story about leaving for college because it is immeasurable the subtle impacts our mothers have on our lives. I remember recognizing how an almost offhand remark had shaped my summer before college and how much I looked forward to seeing her again so I could tell her what her candor afforded me. So I could thank her. An impact that continues to shape my decisions today, keeping me balanced and confident.
How has your mom impacted your life? Share your story with P&G and win a reunion with her so you can tell her in person.
Asking women about their mothers feels like slipping a pin out of a hand grenade. I’ve been asking those “last conversation/ first conversation” questions of women in my life for the last few weeks. I never knew if and when I would send a shockwave through us both.
Listen to the audio version of this post for live quotes from some of the women who shared the last and first things they have and would say to their mothers.
One woman that sees her mother daily knew that she would tell her what time her baby had last had a bottle, as her mother helped with childcare while the young mother worked two jobs.
Another had not seen her mother in years because her mom lived on the street. The last thing she said to her mom was, “You look good.”
Yet another had lost her mother and knew that if she could, she would ask if she was taking care of her young nephew, his having passed away only a few days before.
One group refused to go “on the record,” theirs being one of those unexpected shockwave groups. As I walked away from them, however, two spoke up simultaneously, breaking a pensive silence. “Tell us again how we can enter that contest!” they called to my back. They both laughed, one murmuring to the other, “Looks like we need to see our moms.”
And she was nice enough to add that if my dad and I were hanging off of a cliff and she could only save one of us, she would save me. Because he’d already lived a good life. So yeah, Dad, she might technically love you more, but I wouldn’t go walking off any cliffs with your kids if I were you.
The last thing I said to my mom the last time I saw her was that she would be missing my daughter’s first birthday, but to have fun on her trip. And I meant it. The first thing I’ll say to her when I see her again is that I wrote about her. I wrote about her, her commitment to and love for my dad, and her love for us. A love which ultimately gave me freedom.
Fifty bucks she says, “I don’t remember that conversation at all.”
Love you, Mom. Thank you.
Now your turn. Warm up your storytelling skills before you enter the P&G Thank You Mom contest and tell me:
What was the last thing you said to your mom? Was it offhand or poignant? For those of you that have lost your mothers or grown apart from them, did you know it was the last time you would see her?
What is the first thing you will say to her when you see her again?
Part of the Thank You Mom campaign sponsored by P&G. Share your story for a chance to win $1,000 toward travel expenses for a reunion with your mom, along with a handheld video camera to record your reunion. Visit ThankYouMom.com for details.