My mother came out for a visit last week. She came with my stepfather and stayed at a nearby hotel.
We went to the San Diego Zoo, took Gabbie to dog beach, and ate several yummy dinners and brunches. She even bought me a fancy new pair of boots, while my stepfather built a gate so I no longer have to worry about my pug’s exploratory tendencies.
But going deeper into our relationship is hard to do in a short blog post.
My relationship with my mother is complicated. Here’s an excerpt from No Beauty Queen to help explain why:
I’ve called my own mother “Mom” only once in my entire life.
It was at a Christmas party at her brother’s house a few months after I graduated college. Several of my cousins already had toddlers of their own running around, so it was crowded and loud. Exactly how a Christmas party should be.
Earlier in the year, I had decided it was time to start using the name “Mom” to address my mother, and told her as much. So far, I’d written it on envelopes and gift labels and introduced her to friends as “my mother,” but I still hadn’t said it to her face.
Amidst the chaos of the party, my uncle tried to herd our family into the dining room to start our annual tradition of Dirty Santa—a gift-exchange game also known as White Elephant. It’s one of my favorites, so I was eager to help in the herding.
Naturally, the adults were more difficult than the children to wrangle, and when I saw my mother head in the opposite direction of the dining room and our Dirty Santa game, instinct kicked in.
“Mom!” I called out.
It came from nowhere. I didn’t even think before the word flew from my mouth. My jaw fell slack in shock, and I looked around the room to see if anyone else was as surprised as I was, only to realize that no one else had heard me. I glanced back toward my mother just in time to see the back of her head as she turned a corner and walked out of the room.
She hadn’t even turned around. I had finally called her “Mom” and no one, not even she, knew it.
I rationalized to myself that even if she had heard me, she wouldn’t think to answer to “Mom.” No one has ever called her that.
I wish this moment had opened the floodgates of the “M” word for me and made it possible to use the name a thousand times since, but it had the opposite effect. Watching her leave the room took all the courage right out of me to ever say it again.
I’m going to share this story with the world (hopefully), and the odd part, is that my mother has shown me nothing but unwavering support in doing so. I can't thank her enough for that.
Because I can’t hide from the fact my mother wasn’t there when I needed her as a little girl. At the same time, I won’t ignore the fact that she was there when I needed her most, as a grown woman with a marriage in trouble. And she’s stayed with me ever since.
Our story started with a daughter unable to say the word “Mom.” But I see a different ending. We may have a relationship of complications, but it’s also of restoration, second chances, and many more shopping trips to come.
No Beauty Queen certainly has a sequal.