When I began writing this post I was hoping to dive straight into a history of my childhood and how it shaped me. I wanted to talk about how my husband and I had such different experiences and how those brought us to each other. I was looking to tap into the nostalgic part of my soul (which I would say occupies about 70% of the total) and paint beautiful pictures of a tiny Mallory.
But I keep getting stuck.
In all honesty, as I type this now, I’m four paragraphs down with each paragraph being a new start, just hoping to make something stick. But I keep coming back to this thing my mother used to say.
“I am woman, hear me roar.”
So I guess I will start there. My mother, Jolene, was a badass. I say ‘was’ because she passed away 10 years ago this coming May. I have written odes to my mother before on past blogs that no longer exist. I join the ranks of the many motherless daughters who remember the woman who left too soon and have to memorialize them in the best way they know how – by telling her stories.
In my case, my mother didn’t tell me many stories about herself or her youth. So she left me with no other choice than to tell our stories. You see, I was a fairly self-sheltered child and I’m certain my mother was worried that she would scare the shit out of me with her youthful adventures and mis-adventures. As a preteen and teenager I was a self-declared Jesus freak. I was the kid who asked to go to church and who chose to spend every free moment joining a new committee. My mother jumped trains and smoked like a chimney.
It took me a long time to embrace some of the recklessness that fueled my mother’s sense of adventure. As a young girl I colored within the lines, I won spelling bees and I always, always, followed the rules. My mother would curse and listen to Metallica and ask me why my skirts were so long. I was so in love with following the rules that I remember the one time I forgot to put my seatbelt on, and when my mom noticed and gently reminded me, I started bawling. Yeah, I was a lot of fun.
Now, don’t get me wrong, my mother was very careful with me and extremely aware of herself and our surroundings. We would often go camping alone, hiking alone, and multi-state road trips alone and I never once feared for our safety. We had emergency first aid kits in every possible travel bag (and the car and the bathrooms and the closets) and we were prepared. But she knew when to enjoy the moment.
She knew when to stop on the side of the road to pick flowers. She knew when to watch the storms rolling in from the tailgate.. and when to immediately hide in the closet from the tornado sirens. She knew when to push me just enough outside of my comfort zone that I almost didn’t realize it was happening.
She taught me to be bold.
At the age of 28 I have graduated college, moved across the country a couple of times (alone), opened a successful business (alone), and gotten married. I would say I owe quite a bit of that to her. She taught me to take risks, to stand up for myself and to never be ashamed of being in love. She set a perfect example of “Fuck the haters” and did exactly whatever it is she set her mind to. I mean hell, she raised a daughter on her own.
When she died I was only 18. I was a slightly plumper version of myself and had just finished my freshman year in college. I had just met the boy who would become a best friend and now my husband and was working at a summer camp. I wasn’t with her when she died, but I spoke with her the day before and gave her permission to leave me. I assured her that she did a great job and that I would be okay.
I spent the rest of that summer being full of abundant energy and flirting with everyone that wasn’t my then-boyfriend. The next year or so I dabbled in over-eating and under-eating, wearing a lot of eyeliner and learning to curse. I was still extremely religious and continued to hold tightly to that belief system. I began going on road trips by myself, late at night, and showing up in cities where not-my-boyfriend lived. Luckily, Zachary was usually in those cities and we would eat queso at 3 am and then I would go back to driving too fast, with the music too loud, to get back to school.
My favorite thing about those memories is this: I was never once afraid. I never feared that something would or could go wrong. Surely some of that had to do with being young and naive, but I won’t give all the credit to my underdeveloped prefrontal cortex. My mother taught me to set out on my own and chase what made me feel alive. She taught me to be bold.
I could go on for days about how wonderful my mother was and carry on with story after story, but for now I will leave it here.
Thanks for making me who I am today. Thank you for making me bold. I am woman, hear me roar.