I’m fortunate to have my mother. All the years of my life she’s been by my side—even across many miles. Both my parents have. When they couldn’t fathom what in the world I was up to or, in some cases, why I’d gone to (truly) dangerous locales on the other side of the world…the belief in me was there even while worry may have been present. You can’t buy support like that.
On Mother’s Day, this post is about my mom: Sue Woody. She grew up in difficult times and circumstances in the small town of Palestine in East Texas, an only child. She received little nurturing herself and later said to me that she didn’t know what she was doing as a mother to me. I suspect that most mothers feel that way. However, I believe she knew exactly how to raise me and acted on intuition. I am, in many ways, the product of the parenting I received.
When I was a teenager and wanted to paint my entire room shades of purple with stripes on the ceiling, not only did she say okay…she helped me. What mother does that? Mom always supported my creative urges. Dance in the early years. Five years of piano lessons. A sewing machine when I wanted to make my own clothing. Art lessons with a local artist.
When I was fourteen I was hell on wheels, experimenting with everything. She knew enough to give me lead rather than rein me in. As a result, while I got into a lot of things—that she’ll never know about—I never got into any real trouble. I went to the edge, testing the waters, but always drew back. I can say this, knowing myself: If she’d put stringent restrictions on me I would have gone over that edge, just to rebel. Instead, I experimented with boundaries and stayed safe.
I have many stories. Here’s a humorous favorite that reflects her pure belief in me. I’m also an only child. As my mom has gotten older, she’s been worried that I’m not in relationship. I’m guessing she’s still hanging on to the fairy tale about the white knight.
So, a few years ago when she wistfully brought up her wishes for me, I told her this: “You know, it would have to be someone fully engaged in life. Almost an icon. Like Robert Redford.” I always say this tongue in cheek when someone asks about my status.
But she looked at me seriously and said: “I think he’s available.” I had to give her the sad news shortly after that Bob Redford had gotten married…
Probably fifteen years ago we were having a deep discussion about life in general, how things unfold. She said to me, “I didn’t have the choices available to me that young women do today.” And that’s very true. Most women didn’t. Things have changed radically over the last forty years. The opportunities are now there.
Someone once told me that I’m fearless. I don’t know how true that is across contexts. But I do generally feel safe in the world, at the belief level. The grounding allows me to venture into places in the psyche and geographically perhaps others wouldn’t go—willing to take calculated risks. Experiment.
But it’s doubtful I would be many of the things I am…if my mother…in all her inherent wisdom…hadn’t nurtured that spirit in me that wasn’t given flight in her. With love to you, Mom. I’m so proud and grateful to be your daughter.