Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day Two: Momma

Day Two of the 30-Day Challenge is a picture of me and the person I've been closest with the longest.  I suppose this could be interpreted in different ways, but I'm going to choose the person I've literally been closest with--my momma, Glenda Cleo Connor Jewell.

I've known my momma since August of 1979 when I entered this world after what she describes as a pretty non-traumatic labor.  I spent the first five years with her pretty much nonstop since she stayed at home with my little brother and me.  I feel extremely blessed that she chose to be a stay-at-home mom, not to mention that she took it seriously and spent so much time working with me.  When my brother and I were in elementary school and mom went back to get her nursing degree (which she accomplished!), she still managed to help us with our homework and projects, chauffeur us to school and our various activities (we rarely rode a school bus), cheer us on at our games and competitions, keep our clothes washed, pack our lunches, make us dinner, and wrestle with my unruly hair.  I can't remember ever hearing her complain and she didn't make a point to remind us of all she did and how we should be thankful.  She just did it.  Looking back now, I realize just how much of herself she sacrificed.  She didn't go for weekly manicures or spend Saturday afternoons shopping (at least for herself).  Her life revolved around us.  My momma has always been my biggest supporter and cheerleader, even when I'd push her away or hurt her. 

In Florida, 2006

Things weren't always hunky dory between my mother and me.  As luck would have it, I hit puberty dangerously close the time she began "the change."  At least that's what my dad always called it; I can remember at one point thinking, What on Earth is she changing into???  Needless to say, the teen years were more than a little rocky.  Hormones (or the lack thereof) were to blame for quite a few arguments, tiffs and a couple all out wars.  My mom tries to say now that I wasn't that bad, and I suppose in comparison to some teenagers I wasn't.  But I won't even try to deny that I was mouthy and a bit of a smartass.  I didn't even try to hide that I was counting down to the day I could move to college.  My mother's motto became, "Well soon you'll be out of here and won't have to deal with me anymore."  I still loved my mother, but we were just so different.  I just thought we'd always be at odds.    

I moved to college and things got better to a degree.  We weren't in each other's space so much, so there were fewer opportunities to argue.  The problem was that I had my share of wild hairs and wild oats to sow.  Looking back, I know my mom was just worried about me but I accused her of trying to control my life and treating me like a child.  Truth is, I was a child and I did need someone else to control my life because I was doing a piss poor job myself.  I bounced back and forth between accusing my mother of smothering me with her constant phone calls and moping around my dorm room when she didn't call for 2 or 3 days.  Deep down I craved a good relationship with my mom; I was just too proud to do my part.  Even though I was often hateful and ungrateful, my momma was still there for me, going

My mother SPEEDING for me!  ;)

out of her way to take care of her oldest child.  The worst was my sophomore or junior year (can't remember which semester--it was in '99) when I literally had a mini-breakdown.  I had let all of my deadlines creep up on me at the end of the semester and was totally overloaded. One night my boyfriend found me curled up on the bed.  I don't remember a bit of it, but I'm told I was awake but pretty much unresponsive.  I had just shut down.  My momma drove to get me.  She took me home, gave me some "happy" pills and put me to bed.  The next day, I insisted that I would be quitting school and that I would be fine working at McDonald's.  She kindly but firmly told me that I would finish school because she would be there to help me through it.  And she was.  Now they would call her a helicopter parent but you know what they say about desperate times.  She moved me home from school.  She personally contacted my professors and explained what had happened, convincing them to take mercy on me.  She helped me gather the material I needed.  Then she sat beside me while I wrote every damned paper, encouraging me through every word.  Never once did she chide me for procrastinating or even ask what I had done with all my time when I should have been working.  She just gave me nonstop encouragement and let me cry when I needed to do so.  Not only did I end up passing that semester, I wrote three of the best papers I'd produced in my college career.  I know if it hadn't been for my mother, I would have withdrawn from school that semester and possibly had a full-blown nervous breakdown from the weight of my own failure.  That sounds dramatic, I'm sure, but it's the God's honest truth.   

When I moved home during the summer of 2001 to work for the summer and plan my wedding, my relationship with my mom began to improve.  I was a tiny bit afraid that we'd fight over my wedding, but we had a great time.  I'll never know how she truly felt about me getting married at first, but I have to suspect that she was worried.  Not that she didn't like John--he was great.  It had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me.  I didn't have the best track record of forming (and staying in) stable relationships.  I was flighty and impulsive and had already ended one engagement.  John and I had only been dating a few months when we announced our plans to marry and our wedding date was less that seven months after our first date.  My mother only asked me one time if I was sure about getting married.  When I promised her that I knew this was what I was supposed to do, she never brought it up again and was nothing but supportive.  And though I would have married John regardless, it made me feel more confident when people questioned me because my mom supported me. 

Mothers' Day 2007
After I married and moved to Memphis, my mom and continued to get closer.  I'll never forget my first week of in-service.  I picked up a nasty bacterial infection and was sick for DAYS with a high fever and violent vomiting.  And though John did his best to take care of me, I secretly cried and wished for my momma.  It was the first time I'd ever been sick and she wasn't there to take care of me (she did end up coming, though).  I honestly think that was a major turning point.  It was the first time I'd ever pined for my mother.  

My mother has always been there for me, and when John came along, she was there for him, too. Not long after we married, I had to take John to the ER in the middle of the night.  In my panicked state, I locked my keys in the car.  I was in tears and didn't have any close friends yet to call.  So I called home.  My mom (and dad) drove to Memphis in the middle of the night to drive me to my apartment to get the spare set.  Then they sat with me in the ER until John was released.  After that, someone told me, "If I were your mom, I'd have just told you to call the locksmith."  This was another turning point.  Though I knew that some people had crappy mothers, I thought what my mom did was normal mom behavior.  Nope. 

As the years have passed, my mother has become one of my best friends.  I call her to celebrate victories and mourn losses.  I seek out advice, comfort and encouragement.  If I need to laugh, cry or cuss, she listens patiently.  And though I've reached the point in my life where I don't have to be mothered, it's now--more than ever--that I find myself needing my mother.  Sometimes I feel like I lean on her too much, especially considering the challenges and hardships she has in her life.  Maybe I give her credit for being stronger than she is.  All I know is that she's never let me down and she's the one person I've been able to trust completely for 32 years. 

Amelia and Momma on her 64th birthday
I love my momma and I hope to God that I do a good enough job showing her just how much she means to me.  Whenever I find myself sounding like her, I don't have the stereotypical "I'm turning into my mother" reaction.  I feel proud.  My mother is a strong, compassionate wife, mother, friend and now grandmother. She has taught me the true meaning of love and sacrifice.  A weaker woman would have been broken by now by what my mother has endured.   If I accomplish nothing else in my life, I want to be more like her.  My little girl is lucky to have her as a grandmother, but she would be so fortunate to have a mother like I have.  I just pray that I can fill her shoes. 

1 comment:

Paige said...

It makes me happy to read about how much you love your momma, even though I cried through the whole thing!