I haven’t seen my friend’s mom since I was in high school, but I’ve thought of her a lot over the years.
I knew she was sick. Very sick. I just didn’t want to think about one of my oldest friends losing her mom. So I put it out of my mind.
Tonight I’m just so sad for her.
When I explain my memories they will sound so trivial, but they’ve played an incredible role in my decision making and outlook over the years.
In the period I most remember her mother was divorced and not seeing anyone. She would have been in her early 40’s, I’m pretty sure. Though, when you are 12 age is as abstract as money.
In my memories that now all run together we spent a lot of time in her vehicle. It was a blue suv that was rugged like a jimmy. The windows were always down and music playing.
Remember that song, “Where have all the cowboys gone” by Paula Cole? It came out in ’97. I’m sure you do it was rather catchy. About a woman who, to simplify it, marries a worthless man who goes out drinking every night leaving her with the babies, laundry and debt. (and any other horrible affliction one can imagine)
We listened on repeat in that car. Being our youth her mom was always driving us around the coast. She always talked during this song. I think she was talking to us, but in that indirect way people can. She didn’t look at us. Just stared ahead at the road. I don’t remember her words specifically, but she told us that what those lyrics described really did happen to people.
This was a time that my mom wasn’t even discussing boys with me. Not even the fact that I might find one attractive — certainly not the fact that I could marry one, have babies and be treated horribly. In my young mind love was a fairly tale type thing.
Her mom spoke with harshness — a rawness about it. I remember her saying girls have to protect themselves — be smart and tough. Be independent. Choose wisely. Never rely on a man for our resources or emotions and never be caught off guard because men and love can’t be trusted or truly counted on. Maybe it was a little harsh for a 12 year old, but it was true. Maybe it’s why I view all the weddings, proposals and engagement rings with a slight skepticism, but I do. I always will. We all have heartbreaks, betrayals and worthless partners and when I had mine, I remembered her knowing I wasn’t alone. My mom did give me the cold hard facts eventually, but considering they came first from a person who lacked agenda, I believed what I heard.
She was a kind woman who had a rawness to her that was real. She was never materialistic. She was an authentic person and I have always looked back at that with intrigue and appreciation.
Years ago I heard her mom remarried. I was so delighted because, yes, what her mom said is true, but it isn’t absolute.
Along with that coldness of the Paula Cole song, we, the gaggle of girls, also rode around with her mom listening to the Indigo Girls, Rites of Passage. We knew all the words and they were beautifully written with a message of hope and strength. When I think of her mom I remember both. The beauty of youth and the words of a wise woman who just wanted us to become women who used their brains with their hearts.
Just yesterday I was in a record store and saw a Rites of Passage cd with a $1 sticker. I own two cd copies already, but bought it again just because I can’t leave it behind. I only tonight saw the news of her passing. Life is strange that way.
I know this little memory is incredibly insignificant to the total of her life, but it’s a reminder of the profound strength our words have on the people around us. People we don’t think are listening or would ever remember. 17 years later I do remember and always will.
My love to her sweet daughter.