Dear Diary,

I turned 54 today. It’s a pretty unremarkable number, but I’m grateful that I get to add another year to my overall tally. On my birthday, I always tend to think about my mom—the one who actually did all the work and brought me into this world. She’s been gone for a few years now, but I still feel her spirit in and all around me.

She was remarkable that way.

My mom always said that all she ever wanted to be was a wife and a mother. She had Carrie six years before she had me. My dad left shortly thereafter, so I became the remaining 33.3% of my mom’s dream. I don’t take that honor lightly. As a child, I always wanted my dad to return, but I know now that he would have brought chaos into our lives. We were the perfect trio, just Mom, Carrie, and me. Mom brought me into a big, loving family of grandparents who owned and lived in a cemetery, and an abundance of aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was a magical childhood to be surrounded and loved and held by such an amazing extended family.

Mom was 30 when she had me—the same age I was when I had Mary Claire. It’s so interesting for me to go back in time and think about my mom now that I’m older. When she was helping me paint Sam’s nursery, she was 49. MS was just beginning to steal her mobility. By my age, she began having trouble walking. 

One thing Mom always wanted to do was travel through Europe. I vowed as a teenager that I would take her there, but her health issues and my finances never aligned. By the time I could afford that vacation, she was wheelchair bound. It feels like one of life’s greatest swindles. Mom deserved to have a Keoke coffee in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. I hope she’s found an even tastier drink in an even better place. 

When mom was my current age, I was getting married. She was 54, and I was 24. When I think about marrying at 24 now, it feels so incredibly young. Two of my own kids are older than 24, and I can’t imagine them married. They still have so much of their own lives to live; so much about themselves to discover. After I had George at 32, Mom asked me to have one more baby… for her. “Just one more, Trinks,” she’d said. “And I’ll raise the baby.” She was 56 when she made that crazy request. That’s how much she loved babies, especially her grandbabies. 

When my four kids were little, I was so worried about parenting them the “right” way. As an A+ good girl, I read all the parenting books and studied all the latest baby-rearing trends. But I wish I’d parented more like my mom. I wish I’d yelled less. I wish I’d broken more of my self-imposed rules. I wish I’d let my kids sleep in my bed. I wish I’d spent less time dusting and vacuuming our huge, five-bedroom home. But I had a partner who saw these things differently, and he convinced me we needed to have a united front. (Sidebar: A united front meant parenting his way.)

When I was young, my mom was the “fun mom.” She’d let us bake in the kitchen, making crazy messes and not worrying about the flour in our hair. I always worried about flour in my kitchen and what a pain it would be to clean it off of every surface, so I did all the baking myself. I bought my kids the designer clothes that I never had as a child. My priorities were misplaced for so long. Mary Claire laughs now at pictures of the frilly, flowery Baby Lulu ensembles I dressed her in. That style was so far from my little Halloween goth cheerleader who now thrifts most of her clothes and crochets the rest. How I wish I’d listened more closely to who my kids were telling me they were.

I’m listening now.

It’s funny—as a kid, I was always embarrassed that I lived in an apartment when all my friends lived in big houses with swimming pools. I thought that was the pinnacle of success and the root of all happiness. But when I had a big house with a swimming pool, I wasn’t happy because I wasn’t me. Now I’ve chosen to live in a beautiful little fifth wheel with very few “things,” and I’m so content. Perhaps after all these years, my mom’s I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-what-anyone-thinks-of-me attitude has hit home. 

When I first came out to her, she was confused and sad. It’s shocking, I’m sure, to have someone who grew and nurtured and raised you suddenly find out you’re not who they thought you were. But once the dust had settled and she knew my kids were okay, she was so happy for and supportive of me. That’s everything a daughter could possibly ask for.

I sometimes wish I’d been an adult when my mom was in her 30s and 40s—that I could have been her best friend instead of her daughter. I look at her pictures back then, and I see this gorgeous, sexy, vibrant woman—a part of her I never had the privilege of knowing. She was so many people, and I only knew a fraction of her.

She was beloved by everyone she knew. In her later years, when she was confined to a wheelchair, Sweet Caroline would hold court. She’d make us all snort with laughter until we cried. Her personality was as big as her heart, and being in her presence was a gift.

Losing my sister so early was devastating, but the one good thing about her death was that she waited until Mom was gone. Seeing her precious Carrie in the state she was in during her final days would have broken Mom’s heart into a million pieces. I’m not sure she would have recovered.

I’m not a big believer in heaven and hell, but I hope there’s a place out there somewhere in the Universe where the other 66.66% of my trio reside together. I hope it’s golden with sunshine and speckled with stardust. I hope they both know how much I love and miss them.

And I especially hope they know how happy I am that they were mine.

Thanks for bringing me into the world on this day, 54 years ago, Mom. You were the best.



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