Beth is a sweet friend and mentor of mine whom, surprisingly, I’ve actually never met in person. At this point it’s hard to imagine that’s actually true, based on our email exchanges. I swear, sometimes it’s like I’ve known her my whole life. (Maybe that’s because I’m besties with her brother? Does that relationship transcend? Orrrrr am I a big creeper? I’m probably a big creeper.)
Yesterday, she sent me an email asking for prayer on sending one of her beautiful daughters away (like, far away) to college. She detailed her feelings in a blog post and a link to it was included in her email.
So I read it. And I cried a little bit. And I wrote her an email in response.
She told me I should put my response on this blog. I was hesitant to because, well, no one likes to feel vulnerable. And my reply to her makes me feel very vulnerable. But. I trust her, so I’m going to, after omitting a couple super personal details. (Plus I think it might make my mom, who reads every blog I write, cry happy tears and that’s always a plus, right?)
This post brought me to tears. Yes, because it was beautifully written, but also because for the first time in my life EVER I could kind of (kind of!!!) understand where the hell you and my mother are and were coming from all those years ago.
When I left home and went off to college, my mom wanted me to stay in my hometown and just go to college there, but I was so bitter about that place and all the people in it (“angsty” teenager doesn’t even scratch the surface) that I literally applied for all the colleges in Florida that were at least an hour away. I got into the University of Central Florida (a 40 minute drive down I-4 in Orlando) immediately, and I considered it my “back up” school, but even though it was a good school, it was “too close.” I anxiously awaited to hear from Florida State because, yes, it has a kickin’ communication/fine arts program but also, because it was in Tallahassee, a four hour drive away from everything I knew. As if that wasn’t far enough, I had to go and spend over a year abroad over the course of two summers and a semester.
The plan was once I graduated that I would move back in with my mom and apply for jobs in journalism all over the country until someone hired me. But, I met Dan, so I stayed in Tallahassee and got a job here. I graduated four years ago next month (WHAT THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT) and almost every single time I go down to visit my mom, she cries when I leave.
Up until reading your post, I didn’t really know why. Yes, I’m her baby and yes, she is alone. But. I have always been pretty independent. (For instance, when she dropped me off at the church nursery for the first time at 2 years old, I pointed at the door and said, “Mommy, GO.” I was also the only kid in kindergarten who walked herself to class. I’ll never forget that first day of school — me, quietly sitting alone at a table with my hands folded, awash in a sea of kids and their parents both sobbing their faces off. I never understood it. “It’s just school. What’s the big deal?”)
“It’s just college, Mom. What’s the big deal?”
“I’m just moving to London for a little while, Mom. What’s the big deal?”
“It’s just marriage, Mom. What’s the big deal?”
“It’s just knee surgery, Mom. What’s the big deal?”
“It’s just a baby, Mom. What’s the big deal?”
But I realize now, that it was never about “the thing”. It was never about college or marriage or moving abroad. It was about me “not needing” my mother.
At this point in time, my son NEEDS ME. There is no way around that. Without me, he literally cannot survive. (Though, in two weeks, he could theoretically be born and still survive but that thought just freaking terrifies me.) Reading your post and realizing that one day, he really won’t need me, was kind of heartbreaking.
But in the good way.
Because I know that no matter what happens, I’ll always be his mommy. And you’ll always be Sarah’s mommy. And yes, she may pull a Lindsay and stay in Savannah way longer than she previously anticipated. But she may not. But no matter what she does, she’s going to be out in the world being a conduit of your love and grace and support through all these years and, more importantly, a conduit of Christ’s love.
See, no matter where she goes, she always takes you with her — in her demeanor, in her words, in her creativity, in her affections, in her emotions, in her struggles. Because when people see Sarah, they see the girl that Beth raised. They see Beth’s Daughter.
Just like when people see me they see Chari’s Daughter. Which, yes, at some times, is super embarrassing. (The way we both talk about cats as if they’re people, for example.) At some times it can be really irritating. (The way we both nitpick people’s grammar and spelling. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten from my mom picking apart my blog.) But sometimes, it is amazing. Like the way we can both sit at a piano all day until our butts are in pain and flattened against the bench. The way we both harmonize with songs on the radio out of habit. The way we both cry at injustice. The way we both want everyone to be happy. The way she raised me without males around the house and we still worked our asses off to make a difference. The way we minister to people.
And so forth.
I am praying for you and Sarah today. Not just that everything goes well, but that God’s grace and love washes over you. And as you send yet another baby into the big scary world of adulthood, on her own, “not needing” you, remember that God did that for you and Sarah with His only baby boy. And His plan, albeit painful, is sovereign and holy and He is still in control, all those years later. He’s holding you and Sarah right now and you are both safe.
Love love love.
Mom, if you’re reading this (and I know you are) know that I’ve never not needed you. Even when it looked like I didn’t need you, I did. Because after I pointed to the door and told you to GO, you came back and took me home and fed me. Because after you dropped me off at the front of the school and let me walk to kindergarten all by myself, you picked me up and asked me what I learned. Because after my dad left, you started your own childcare business to support me on your own. Because you let me sleep on the floor in the living room in front of the TV because those circumstances were the only ones that would allow me to fall asleep. Because you bought me a bike right after my new bike was stolen. Because you gave me your favorite car when my junker blew up. Because when I couldn’t (literally couldn’t) finish my homework in high school because I was working two jobs and in five clubs, you stepped in. Because when I said I couldn’t you said I could. Because when I said I wasn’t beautiful or worth it, you said I was. Because when my bridesmaids were up to their faces in problems the day before my wedding, you held my hand and told me it would be okay as long as I was marrying Dan.
You are my only mommy (my only PARENT, to boot) and I will never not need you. Not ever.
I love you so much,