My mother used to make up stories about the little match girl, you know, the one that died, and tell them to my sister and me at bedtime. The little match girl didn't always perish in my mother's tales. Sometimes she would find a fortunate ending with a loving family. There were always detailed descriptions of clothing, homes, and food in these stories. Stories told by my mother usually took place in England, and orphans featured heavily. Could the little match girl of my mother's stories be the reason I have always been obsessed with English culture, beautiful things, and food? Am I grateful that I did not grow up an orphan selling matches on cold streets in ragged clothes? Did I become a story teller because my mother is one as well? The answer to these questions is a resolute yes. Although my mother and I are opposites in so many ways, we are exactly alike in many others. I don't believe that the ideals passed on from my mother are very British, our ancestors were cowboys in the wild west who defied convention and built lives from very little. We are definitely continueing our legacy of subtle rebellion.
My mother taught me to create. I don't ever remember a time when my mom did not have a creative project, or 50, on the go. She was constantly sewing, painting, decorating, music making... I honestly thought that all mothers did this. It is so engrained in me. I spent a lot of time bored in fabric stores and less bored in craft stores. I do avoid shopping a bit these days, and with Amazon Prime, it's just more convenient to order supplies online. The clothing my mom made for my sisters and myself was incredible. I did not inherit her talent for sewing, I believe that sewing machines hate me. My mother ensured that I had a sewing machine when I moved away, I could never get it to work and I ended up selling it when we were low on cash one month. I am far too practical. But my mother... SHE MADE MY WEDDING DRESS AND IT WAS BEAUTIFUL. I do feel the need to be creative every day, or make my everyday life creative. I am not happy if I don't live this way, and I believe that my mom is the same.
My mother taught me to be bold. If something is worth doing, do it all the way. Do you like the colour purple? Some people might choose a scarf or a throw pillow to enjoy purple. My mother and I might paint all the walls purple and buy a purple dress, coat, and shoes. We might dye our hair purple as well. We are assuredly extremists of personal expression. My mother loves musicals. Growing up we saw nearly every musical ever created. Honestly, it is rare that I come across a musical I have not seen or do not know the lyrics to nearly every song (it's ridiculous and amazing). But here again, Mom's love for musicals is not a passing fancy. It is an obsession. She boldly loves them. She will gush about them and want the soundtracks so that she can listen to them ad nauseam. If you love something, be committed. None of this British, "it's a bit crap," when you actually like it, or,"it's alright," when it's the best thing you have ever encountered in your life. Be bold. Speak your truth and share your truth. It's refreshing and charming and I love this about my mother.
Relating to being bold, because my mother is such a bold lady, my mother taught me to be myself. I am admittedly less flamboyant than my mom, although I definitely get noticed with my bright colour choices and set of 3 matching children. My mom is glamorous. I remember her wearing beautiful clothes, a lot of jewelry, make-up, for a big event or a trip to the grocery store. My mother loves people and is an extrovert, introverts such as myself enjoy having extroverts to help them out in life (I married an extrovert for survival). My mom makes friends with everyone she meets. She loves people and they love her. She says what she means and doesn't hold back. She has never ever been accused of being boring. Ever. My mother is unabashedly authentic. I hope that I can continue to follow in her footsteps in this area and be my quietly bold self.
Most notably, my mother taught me to be a rebel. Now, I find myself married to a rebel and raising three more. Look out world! We will question every rule we are given. Why we are complying is more important to us than if we are complying in most cases. I now know that raising children to question everything is exhausting, so thank you mother for parenting me in this way despite the frustration. England is full of rules and tradition. Living here has really forced me to face my rebellious nature. I am sorry to any lovely English friends who I have accidentally terrified or offended. This is never my intention. We can blame my mother if you like, or maybe my grandmother, or even my great-grandmother, whom I was privileged to know. I come from a long line of convention challengers.
I realize that no one's life is easy, but my mother's has been particularly difficult, the last decade especially. After a life altering stroke, she faced an alternate reality, not at all what she had planned. She cannot pick up her grandchildren, babysit, or help me around the house as she used to when she visited. She needs a wheelchair for long trips. She retired from her career in music much earlier than she had planned. She has poor health and chronic pain. Yet, she continues to be creative, bold, rebellious, and authentically herself. She is stronger than she believes she is. Twice, in less than 2 years, she has made the journey to visit her grandchildren here in England. She has visited tropical paradises. She continues to create beautiful art. She made each of my children a baby quilt, sewn with the use of only one hand (sewing superstar). And she will never ever stop being rebellious or telling you exactly what she thinks. Of this I am certain. I am so grateful that I was not an orphaned match girl because my life is richer and more fascinating with my mother in it.