She came to the bus stop wearing a PT uniform. Her eyes were puffy. She'd very obviously been crying. My face and chest grew warm from embarrassment as I looked around at the other kids. I heard the loud engine of the bus and noticed it was just up the road.
"Are you hungry?" She asked.
"I ate breakfast already."
"I took back my deodorant so I could buy you this."
Embarrassment turned to anger. Why was she doing this? I snatched the Burger King bag and stabbed dangers at her through narrowed eyes. I watched her drive away through the back of a dirty bus window and ate tried to eat the sausage biscuit. I had gotten cold. Between the lump in my throat and the dryness of the hardened biscuit, it was hard to swallow. I was 14.
I'd moved in with my mother two years prior. She was fresh from a tour in Germany and I was fresh from nine years of living her sister's family. We were two people, practically strangers living in a house together, trying to make it work. She was a woman taking on full time motherhood, a pursuit she'd only tackled for the first 3 years of my life. I was a child taking on full time daughterhood. Something I'd never had to consciously try.
I didn't know much about her. She was a mystery to me. This isn't because she never called or wrote. She'd send me gifts and money. My heart would jump at the thought of speaking with her on the phone. My visit to Germany to see her and my father for my tenth birthday, is to this day, one of the best birthdays I ever had. She'd always been the cool one. The one who'd traveled. Lived life. I wanted her to like me so much. I wanted her to be proud.
There were so many "black spots" in her past that I knew nothing about. Although I'd grow to forgive what I thought was totally unfounded treatment of me during my teen years, I still didn't understand it. Why the tight hold, disallowing me to go to sleepovers or hang out after football games? Why was she so frustrated? Why did I make her so angry? Why? Why? Why?
I have to say that honestly, up until about a week ago, my mother's motives were still somewhat of a mystery to me. She shared information with me that unlocked a world of understanding and with it, I've grown to appreciate her even more. Without realizing it, she'd answered all my "whys"? I'd often wonder why she left me with her sister instead of getting out of the Army and taking care of me. She inadvertently told me the answer---to avoid welfare in Marion, SC. I can't even begin to explain how different my life would have been had she chosen the welfare route.
I'd often wonder why she was so strict about me hanging out. Again, she shared the answer without knowing there was a question---to prevent the naysayers from being right about me being a teenage mother. Her being a single parent and me being a latchkey kid, I was a statistic waiting to happen. I'd often wonder why she worked jobs with crazy hours after she retired....to provide adequate support for us. The hours, horrible as they were, gave her a paycheck and kept the bills paid.
I finally understood the bus stop incident after our conversation. Thirteen years later, it made perfect sense. She was struggling with trying to prove to herself and others that she could raise me and provide for me, even if she had to do it all alone.Nearly everything she's done in her life since I was born has been done for me, her only child, her dearest love....She did it to prove everyone wrong. I WOULD do well in school. I WOULD graduate from college. She did it to prove something to herself. She COULD be a good mother. She COULD provide for the two of us. We WOULD make it.
I remember her always saying to me near the end of our many arguments, "We're a team, Tynika." I didn't get it then but I get it now. I finally understand what she was doing the entire time. The self sacrifice required to do what she did as a single mother is something I really can't comprehend.
"I saw a picture of you from the wedding," she said, "The one with the garter. You had this smile on your face. You looked the happiest I'd ever seen you look in my life. That's when I knew I'd done my job. When Just Fine came on at the reception, I just had to dance with my son (in law) because I did just fine. We did just fine."
Perspective is amazing and hindsight is 20/20.
So...to my mother:
Thank you for the sacrifices you made in your life for my sake. You did the best you could and best you knew how. It turns out that your best was all in all, pretty great. It took me some time but I get it now. I love you. I am proud to have you as my mother.