I can see it now as clearly as if it was yesterday. My mom is dancing with the broom to the beat of the Oldsmobile soundtrack that came with our car. A 1985 Cutlass Ciera. Maroon with a silver stripe. The cassette tape is a compilation of all the greatest hits of the time: Billie Jean meets Danger Zone meets Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time. And my mom sure knows how to dance.
I sit on the floor watching her and The People’s Court as clouds of dirt swirl above me. And when I get hungry, she brings me plates full of ketchup & fish sticks and pink lemonade in a mason jar. I eat and she sweeps. And all is right with the world.
When she’s done cleaning, she makes herself a big bowl of macaroni and stewed tomatoes. And I think it’s the grossest thing I’ve ever seen. But she’s just paying honor to where she came from. Going back to what she’s always known. And taking comfort that there are some things that you can always count on.
When my mom was just 15 years old, she was turned out on her own with only the rent & the electric bill paid through the rest of the month. The cabinets in her old house were completely bare except for a couple boxes of macaroni and a few cans of tomatoes. And that’s how she kept herself alive that month. And then the next and the next.
My mom is the single strongest person I know.
I don’t think I’ve ever told her that. She’s a fighter and a doer and she always comes out swinging. She picked herself up out of that old house and built a real life for herself. And for me. And because of her, I never once had to worry about where my next meal was coming from. There was always an abundance of fish sticks and pink lemonade. Biscuits and gravy. Steak and green beans.
I asked her once how she could stand to still eat macaroni & tomatoes, knowing that it came from such a hard time in her life. And she just looked at me and said, “Sometimes you need to remember the hard times….so you can ever really appreciate the good ones.”
Right now as we’re packing up everything we own and the rent is only paid through the rest of the month, I can’t help thinking of my mom. And how different my “hard times” are from hers. See, I’ve really been stressing about the move and the idea of boxing everything up and leaving it while we’re on tour for two and a half months. But then I think of her and everything she came through, and I just have to smile at how stupid I can really be sometimes.
See because of her, my hard times aren’t really hard at all. And my good times are that much better. So someday (way, way off in the future) when my own kids see me eating fish sticks & ketchup and pink lemonade from a mason jar, and they ask me how I can eat something so gross….Mom, I’m going to tell them about you. About everything you overcame. And, of course, about your dancing. :) And I’m going to tell them that I’m just paying honor to where I came from. Going back to what I’ve always known.
And taking comfort that there are some things…and some people…that you can always count on.