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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Happy Birthday to my mom!
I use this photo almost every time I talk about my mom, because, for me at least, it's a representative image. My grandfather took it, back when I was in high school; we're at the International Horse Park in Conyers, Mom, and Cosmo, and me. I was next up, and we were watching the horse and rider pair one time slot ahead of me. Cosmo was watching...something else. Something more interesting than dressage tests. It was one of dozens of horse show days. Days full of hurry-up-and-wait; days full of trailer-towing; days full of camera-toting, boot-polishing, and mane-braiding.
I don't know if a love of horses is genetic, but my mom had horses when she was young, and I always hope she was glad to learn, when I first started stringing sentences together, that I was going to be a horse-crazy girl too. I didn't cheer, or dance, or play anything. I rode, and the back of the Tahoe was always full of saddles, bridles, fifty-pound bags of sweet feed, and insidious little bits of hay that would never vacuum up. Every shopping trip involved Horsetown. Lunches were packages of peanut butter crackers and slightly-warm vending machine Cokes.
Mom let me skip school to watch clinics. She wrote excuse letters blaming dentist appointments for my late arrival, when really we'd gone to see the newborn foal before school that morning. She never pressured me into behaving like other girls my age; I wasn't faulted for skipping prom, or for going to college locally so I could keep working. I was never encouraged to be anyone but myself. She listened to every hope, and every dream; she treated me like an adult always; she let me make hard decisions, so that I could learn and grow.
Mom is the first one to read all of my books, and she's more honest with me than anyone. "That doesn't sound like you, Lauren." Or, "I don't think this character would do that." I think she's more excited about new book releases than I am, sometimes. She asks for fresh chapters. "Do you have more for me to read yet?" And let me tell you, bikers are not her "thing." Or, at least, they weren't, but she's read and reread every sentence. She's reading Loverboy right now, and of chapter four, she said, quietly, "It was good," and I know that means so much.
You see, every day I know that there are plenty of mothers who would have been so disappointed to have a daughter like me. One who is geeky and quiet, who is cynical and studious. One who chose horses and books over more glamorous, girlish things. Any mother would have been within her rights to sigh and roll her eyes. But instead, Mom has been my constant cheerleader, the bright outlook to my dark, the voice saying, "You can do this."
And so though it is a vast understatement, I want to tell her thank you, and wish her the happiest of birthdays.
Love you, Mom. Happy Birthday.

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