Thursday, June 25, 2015

My mother's eyes

It's not a current photo, but believe it or not, the image at right is my favorite picture of my mom and me. We took that selfie in Chicago in 2010. My mom and I both love musical theater, so while I was still living in Michigan, we made several short trips to Chicago to see Broadway musicals performed by traveling theater groups. On this particular trip, it was Billy Elliot, but we've also seen Cats and Wicked together. I love this photo so much because it captures a spontaneous and joyful moment with my mom. We had just arrived in Chicago and were heading out to dinner when we discovered it was raining. Pouring. Buckets. Cats and dogs. A deluge. We debated for a long time whether we should take a cab or brave the torrential rain, but in the end, we decided to be hardcore. We donned our rain coats and documented the moment with a photo. You know, in case we didn't survive.

I showed this picture to a friend in college, and her immediate reaction was to say that my mom and I have the same smile. I had never thought much about our resemblances before, but after someone else said it, I realized it was true. I have my mother's smile.

Now that my mom has been in Oregon this week, I've had a lot of time to notice the things that we share. Personally, I think I got some of her best features. Mom gave me life; she gave me her blue eyes and her blonde hair. She passed on to me her organizational skills and her powers of discernment. She is the source of my unrelenting optimism.

Mom has always been one to see the good in everyone. She gives second and third and fourth chances, even when they're not deserved. She makes sure everyone is included, even the runt and the outcast and the new kid. She cannot stand a bully. My mom cares for those who can't care for themselves, and she has a heart much bigger than her body.

I try to emulate my mom in a lot of ways, and I was reminded of her positive qualities all over again today. We spent most of the afternoon strolling through downtown Coos Bay, and even though I've walked those streets a thousand times, today, I got to see them in a new light. I saw Coos Bay through my mother's eyes.

Mom loves the cute, historic downtown. She's so much better than me at noticing new businesses. We stopped in at an interior design store that had opened in the past few months; she pointed out to me countless others I had never noticed. Trust me, there were plenty of jokes about me needing to get out more, but my point is that there's a lot more going on in Coos Bay than I ever realize. New buildings are being renovated; the farmer's market has expanded, and we even stumbled on a new construction site being surveyed. By the time we walked home, I was convinced Coos Bay was actually a really cool place to live.

It's so easy for me to get bogged down in this place. It's so easy for me to bury my head in my work and lose sight of what's going on around me. It's so easy for me to focus on the minor frustrations, the awkward conversations, the people I would rather do without. I spend a lot of my time in Coos Bay feeling frustrated, tired, and lonely, but it is for exactly this reason that I need my mother's eyes.

It's because my generally conservative opinions are rejected in Coos Bay that I need my mother's eyes. It's because anyone I get close to is bound to move away that I need my mother's eyes. It's because I've never really felt accepted around here that I need my mother's eyes. It's because a Ph.D. is a marathon, not a sprint, and I have at least another year ahead of me that I need my mother's eyes.

It's because her love and her optimism and her positivity always triumph that I am grateful for my mother's eyes.

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