A Letter to my MotherHeather L. Barmore
As you know my ability to deal with change is…lacking. I’m sure you think that at almost 30 I should be able to accept that change is inevitable. It’s like death and taxes: not approached with open arms but necessary. And, for the most part, change often leads to something far greater than we could ever imagine but it’s the getting there that leaves me anxious.
So, I hope that you can forgive me for my overreactions over the past year. First, to the announcement that you would be retiring after 23 years (though I will commend you for making my favorite dessert to soften the blow. That was thoughtful of you) and then to my repeated visits to your office to make sure that you really want to do this whole retiring thing. I assure you that my aversion to your departure from our mutual place of work has little to do with you but all me. Because if there is one thing we both know that I excel at it is making things all about you.
But let’s talk about you for a moment.
People – strangers, even – often ask “What is it like to work with your mother?”. My only response is that it’s like working with your mother. She’s still your mother, the woman who will tell you that your hair looks terrible or that you should have worn a slip with that dress and questions why you chose that particular pair of shoes. She is also the person who is at the top of the totem pole of a very large and very public organization. You could simultaneously yell me for biting my nails while negotiating our communications approach to Common Core Standards. The thing is that you never stopped being my mother – a dynamic that we never were able to fully shake. I noticed it every time I was hurt or pissed off or angry at something out of your control and you at once wanted to go all Mama Bear on someone’s ass while trying to get me to breathe through it all.
At your retirement party I told a room full of our family, friends and colleagues that I don’t know how you did it. The it’ being raising two children – as a single mother – while maintaining a grueling work schedule. I said it then and I’ll say it again there are days when I arrive home after travel or a particularly rough day at the office and I have zero patience with my cat. A CAT. So, how you managed to come home to be a fully engaged parent who made sure that homework was finished and science projects were complete…how you did that? I do not know. I can only image what went on behind the scenes in your head and the constant questioning as to whether or not you were doing the right thing at work or with your children.
I suppose that wondering if your children will be OK is the one constant of a parent’s life. It must have consumed you then as I know it does now to wonder if you were raising your children the “right” way. Yes, there are handbooks but no handbook could compare to the real thing. As I said that room full of people and as I am saying to you now: You did it right. You did everything right. And that is why now, after six years of working together and 29 ½ years of being my mother I can tell you that there is at least one thing I know one thing for certain and it is that I am blessed beyond measure to have had you as both a parent and a co-worker and that it why I’m finding it so hard to let go.
When I expressed the above to that room full of people you asked if that’s how I really see you and it is. My aversion to change doesn’t mitigate the amount of pride I have for you as you embark on the next phase of your life. You are going to Columbia University. You’re moving to New York City. You are about to live a dream that you have longed for but have been unable to realize because of the responsibility that comes with being an adult. You’ve spent almost 30 years taking care of others and I want for you to know that I want nothing more for you than your happiness and your ability to do what you’ve always wanted.
Next Monday will be sad but I’ll get over it. Soon I will stop referring to you as Peg’ and go back to calling you mom’ or some variation thereof. At some point we will both revert back to our roles as mother and daughter. You’ll yell at me for leaving a disaster in the kitchen sink and I’ll roll my eyes. Just know that the respect I have for you as a person is with thanks to our six years under the same work roof. I’m glad to know more of who you are and what makes you tick. I am thankful to know you not just as a mother but as a person. Thank you for allowing me to see that side of you. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for wanting nothing but the best.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Love you the moon and the stars,