Growing up

The house my mom grew up in.

My mom was 12 when her mother died. Besides my mom (who is the eldest) she also left seven other little girls and a nine-month-old baby boy, and my grandfather. My mom went from as normal a life as you could have with that many kids in the family in a very small town, to the main caretaker for the family. My uncle was sent to live with family members nearby and my grandfather had what equated to a mental breakdown. He still worked as he could, but everything else was left to my mom. Fast forward ten years and I come along. 

I was raised by a single mom after my parents broke up when I was very young. I was the very definition of a latch-key kid. From the time I was in kindergarten forward, I got myself to and from school every day. That included all the personal grooming and homework. I don't remember a time when it wasn't clear to me that I needed to be an easy kid for my mom. She had enough to worry about. Not saying I was perfect. Far from it. But I rarely got into trouble and was frequently told that I was "mature for my age". I know now that that is a code from adults that either have no idea what to do with the said child or that feel like they should intercede somehow but aren't sure how. 

In some ways, it felt like I parented my mom as she parented me. I would ask if she had eaten or tell her to go to sleep when she came home obviously tired. Sometimes we shared a bed and I can remember her coming home late at night and falling asleep watching her eyes move as she read trying to wind down before trying to fall asleep.

I was alone a lot but never doubted that I was loved.

I look at my kids now and I am struck by how lucky I am to be able to have the time with my kids that my mom couldn't have with me. I don't resent her for the time she spent working, how else would we have survived. Instead, I am grateful for the time she was able to carve out to spend with me. We went on a lot of road trips visiting local tourist traps and having a picnic or road snacks. We played endless rounds of license plate bingo and we talked. 

There is something sacred about being in a vehicle driving long distances. You really have to connect with who you are with. I don't think any revelations were made but in the car my mom was unguarded and I could ask her all the questions I could think of. From those miles (kilometers) I learned about pigs kept under the house, the unique difficulties of parenting siblings including one with a chronic illness, small-town ghost stories, but mostly I learned about my mom. I will never look back on how I was raised with regret or wishing it was different. All of those steps got me here. I am thankful.

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