For My Mom, Who is Always There

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“A little boy planted a carrot seed. His mother said, ‘I’m afraid it won’t come up’… Every day the little boy pulled up the weeds around the seed and sprinkled the ground with water. But nothing came up. And nothing came up. Everyone kept saying it wouldn’t come up.”

I’m standing in the wings of a massive stage. The smell of makeup on my face and the spray in my hair is thick and foreign to my 8 year-old self. My sequined costume makes me itch. But I love it, all the same.

I’m straining my neck to see into the audience. Searching. I scan every shadowy, dark shape. I’m looking for a glare reflecting off of glasses. My mother’s poor eyesight helps me to narrow down the dark, faceless shapes in the audience. Before long, I spot her. She is smiling already. Eager. She knows my dance number is on next. Her eyes will not look away from the stage. They are searching, too.

I feel relief and adjust my bedazzled neon leotard. I straighten my shoulders and ready myself to take the stage. I am confident now. At ease. The sound of music cues me and I run onto stage with the other kids in my class, twirling and skipping, bopping and swaying.

I’m not a particularly good dancer. I’m graceful, yes. And I enjoy it. But I dance recreationally – never interested in the seriousness of competitive dance. I dance in 3 shows every summer at the annual recital my dance studio puts on. I do one dance in those 3 shows and it’s exactly the same each time. I do the same runs and leaps. The choreography is all the same. The costume worn three times.

Yet, my mother has never missed a single show. At each and every recital I scan the audience for the glare on her glasses to find her.

She is always there.

As a kid, I never heard my mother’s version of “I’m afraid it won’t come up”. It wasn’t in her vocabulary. Not because she was a saint. She was human. She wasn’t perfect. She lost her temper from time to time. We fought as mothers and daughters do. But she was my mother. And what I didn’t fully understand as an 8-year-old was that she knew how to do that job instinctively. It was who she was. She wanted to do it.

She was my support. My protector. Her heart swelled with pride for me when I sashayed on stage. And it ached for me when I hurt.

She is always there.

“But he still pulled up the weeds around it every day and sprinkled the ground with water.”

The day that I brought my first daughter home from the hospital, I experienced a feeling of awesome responsibility. She was mine. The real work of my life was about to begin. I had to clear the weeds in order to find the right path for her.

One morning, after being up all night long without sleep, I felt particularly shell-shocked.

“I don’t know how to do this,” I cried to my mother on the phone.

“I’ll be right over. I’m coming to help you,” she said.

I hung up my phone and stared at it in my hand for a minute. It hit me.

She is always there.

I’m a grown up, capable of doing things on my own. I do know how to raise a kid. It’s just as instinctual in me as it was in my mother.

But I don’t have to.

I’m not alone – I have my village to help me. The sprinkling of seeds and watering of the ground doesn’t have to be carried out by only myself. My mother wants to help me.

My mother is always there.

And now my daughters get to benefit from the same support and love. The same guidance. The same amount of self-esteem I had.

Because she is always there.

“And then, one day, a carrot came up just as the little boy had known it would.”