The Great Escape
There was once a day when I dreamed of running away from home as fast as I could. Without a penny to my name. Brazen enough to never even look back.
A common dream of mine. The grass, naturally, displayed a greener shade and I would flourish in a world without being stuck under the thumb of what I considered to be an intolerable and improper ruling. Oh, and they would be sorry. Never to hear from me again. At that point, they would no doubt understand how their actions led to the great escape of my eager emancipation.
After all, I was a teenager. I knew it all! And how dare they keep me from reaching my fullest potential!
I have to laugh, even now, as I sit here writing this…the self righteousness of an adolescent. It’s a rite of passage that everyone must attend, both parents and children alike. And potentially an ugly one at that. Unfortunately, my mother was gifted the wrath of my early days, packaged beautifully with a bow of venom and hatred. She, more than anyone else, endured my constant threats, slamming of doors, nasty looks and downright ugly attitude on an almost daily basis. It’s amazing I’m still alive!
Looking back now, almost 20 years later, I see with clearer vision. Much clearer. So I would consider this long overdue…
Love Letter to My Mother
I wish I could properly put into words how sorry I truly am for being such a brat (and that’s putting it mildly) when I was younger. Growing up was never easy and as soon as those hormones made their nasty appearance it was all over! I believed I knew everything and hated you for not letting me have my way. But I realize now that despite my behavior, you did everything out of love. So to let you know that I was paying attention, I walked away with some of these valuable lessons.
- You have to earn it! – In life, rarely does one receive free handouts. Society does not bow to the self-entitled. Success grows from hard work and perseverance. When my English teacher dangled a trip to Europe for 17 days to four countries which included a stop at the Louvre, my heart leaped! I wanted to go more than anything. At first, the answer was a resounding no. The trip came with a pretty high price tag for 1995. But after a talk with dad, a decision presented itself…that my dream could be realized if I paid for half of the trip. So I applied to my first job working at Taco Cabana at the age of 16! Not a glamorous job by any means and it only paid $4.25/hour but I worked after school and on weekends to earn enough for my share of the adventure plus spending money. Again this situation arose when I bought my first car, paying for half. I’ve carried this lesson throughout my life, knowing what it takes each time I set a new goal. You plan. You earn. You celebrate!
- It’s important to have a strong sense of independence. – Dad always said this was one of the characteristics that drew you to him. And even after the two of you split, you made it work on your own for so many years. You worked a side job for extra money, never asking anyone for financial assistance. And you worked your way, from the ground up, into a management position, proving what hard work can accomplish. I may not have recognized it at the time but I followed in similar footsteps working two jobs in college and even up until 2010, finding ways to make it work when I started my own payroll business. This made it possible to forge forward, never needing to rely on anyone but myself. Then comes the self actualization of knowing that I could do anything I put my mind to…if I really wanted it.
- Live lean and mean! – While I think Capt. Awesome curses this side of my personality you taught me the art of frugality. We never splurged on the unnecessary yet still had nice things. I thought it crazy how you frequently saved lightly used paper plates or walked through the house turning off the lights we left on in every single room but you drove the point home…everything costs money. There’s no need to be frivolous! And why pay more when you can pay less for the exact same thing! I now use coupons when I can and search for the best deals. It drives Capt A crazy sometimes but then he’s amazed when I bring home amazing finds like a pair of Levi 501’s for $20! This also factored into other parts of my existence as well. I do believe this is how I made ends meet when starting my business, living on a part time paycheck alone…before I was able to properly pay myself. And the reason why I created a nest egg for the future.
- Every action has an equal and opposite consequence! – When you’re young, you try to push the limits. Is the stove hot? Let’s see. Burn! Let’s call it a learning curve. Part of the teenage strife involved pushing said limits, specifically when told otherwise. Usually, this involved grounding for me. Grounding from the phone. From hanging out with friends. From anything that involved any and all outside activity apart from school/work until the sentence was paid in full. The worst case involved grounding for an entire a month when the grocery store came a-calling after they found me shoplifting. Not my proudest moment. The cops arrived, filed paperwork, etc. Turns out they filed the wrong paperwork but that didn’t keep you and dad from dressing me up and sitting me down in front of the police chief to receive a stern lecturing on taking what does not belong to you. Needless to say, I never did that again!
- This is what true love looks like. – As hard as it was watching you two divorce and dealing with the aftermath, there’s a part of me that’s grateful for that experience. Love perishes for so many reasons. So many stay together just for the children, but I don’t necessarily agree with that decision. Each upbringing creates a sense of normalcy to our overall experience. Grow up in a home with a loveless marriage and you’re more than likely to repeat the same mistake. I’ve seen several friends proceed through life this way. So as hard as it was dealing with the heartache of a broken family I have to commend you on the decision to part ways so that we, your children, wouldn’t believe in that kind of normalcy. Then when you found true love, it knocked you off your feet. And hard! Of course, being the brat that I was, made it difficult every step of the way. But now having experienced the same thing, I can appreciate that feeling of elation. I waited for it…as the lesson was never to settle.
This list could go on and on…
I do recognize now, what I then believed to be any and all attempt to keep me a slave, was really meant to keep me safe. It can be a cruel world out there and most of us live inside a safe little cocoon. One that our parents build for us before we’re ready for release out into the real world. When I was told not to drive downtown on New Year’s eve (which I did, which resulted in more grounding) it was meant to keep me out of the path of a drunk driver. When I was told not to pirouette through the living room, it was merely to avoid falling and hurting myself. I now have a scar to prove the defiance. And when I was encouraged not to date _____boyfriend, it spoke of your love for wanting the best for me. And he so clearly wasn’t it!
I love you, Mom. I know we don’t always see eye to eye on everything, but I appreciate all you’ve done for both my sister and me. Parenthood, unfortunately, doesn’t come with a set of instructions, but I can say that you did good!
I wish I had the maturity to understand all of this during adolescents…but then again wisdom comes with the crinkling of lines and the greying of hair. Youth is clearly wasted on the young.
Before the arrival of said rock star, my red-headed niece and I carried a bag of props, a step ladder and a change of clothes out to an open patch of water. Not a cloud in the sky. An intermittent breeze blew at whim. And with the occasional distraction of horseshoe crabs and passerbyers, we managed a levitation pose over the bay as the step ladder slowly sank into the sand.
My favorite memory from that day came from a little boy. His family had just crossed the wooden walkway to greet the bay in search of horses. In his disappointment from an empty pursuit, cried out to his parents, “What a rip off!” Hopefully they stayed through the evening for dinner time!