You've always said that you love me. When I was younger, I used to say, "I love you too, Mom," and continue on about my days. You dropped me off at summer camps, where I was surrounded by my friends, and I never quite comprehended the big tears that rolled down your cheeks as you quietly said your good-bye. You corrected me, discipled me, and continued to love me, even and especially when I screwed up--time, after time, after time.
And then something happened, where it all came full circle and my entire life just made sense. Martin Luther King Day 2012. I didn't feel great, I had been super emotional, and kind of as a joke, I took a cheap pregnancy test. Lo and behold, the lines weren't anywhere near being faint and they screamed, PREGNANT, as I put my head into my hands, beginning to cry. Nathan (my oldest brother), was in the hospital and going back and forth between doing okay and then being critical. You were exhausted and tired and your heart ached as it spent hours wondering and worrying for him. I called you, but couldn't even speak... my giant sobs were uncontrollable and you knew without me ever saying. "Oh, Ashley," you sighed.
You knew. I had been at your house a few weeks prior and you had sheepishly asked, "Are you sure you aren't pregnant, Ash?" because of my obvious hormonal disposition. But Pierson was seven months old, I hadn't yet had a cycle, and there was just no way-- but you knew.
I've realized that this pretty much sums up the last twenty-eight years of my life. That through all of my stages and phases, you just knew. As a teeny, tiny little girl, you taught me how to love Jesus. You took me to every gymnastic class, ballet recital, piano lesson, t-ball tournament, volleyball practice and horse riding lesson-- as I shifted and sorted through my strengths and weaknesses, I believe in your heart you thought, "Ashley, I know."
There were moments in our relationship that I thought I wanted to stay with Gram (your mom) across the field and not come home for a while. There were things I wanted to run away from, arguments I wanted to forget and situations that I felt completely embarrassed by because after all, I was a pretty dumb kid. But yet you held your head high, rolled your shoulders back, opened your arms open wide, and made the choice to love me; time, and time again.
How many boys did I fall in love with before meeting my husband? How many times were you reluctant to let me hang out with so-and-so, and yet you prayed in your heart, 'She'll be okay.' I used to run down our dirt road; sprinting full course ahead, angry and frustrated and sad and confused--the youngest of two older brothers, I felt alone. I didn't think anyone understood me, that anyone could relate to my hopes and dreams, that no one could ever feel as much as I did.
And then it all finally made sense.
The day I learned I was having a daughter changed my life. For several months before, I despised being pregnant again so soon. I feared what going into the grocery store with two kids would look like, or how I would climb up our steep steps to the front door with two on my hips. And then at our gender reveal party, I bit into a pink cupcake and you were there, celebrating from afar via FaceTime with Dad and Nate and it was so clear in your eyes--you knew.
You knew my world would be forever changed. You knew that soon I would be staring into my own baby girl's eyes, and in them, I would see us. I would forever smell your perfume, feel your back tickle quietly lulling me to sleep, feel the strength and power of your words...all from HOLDING her. It's not that I didn't feel these things when I held my son, it's just that this time, it would be different. All of those times I pushed you away and didn't want you to kiss my cheek...well, you had to have just known. That sooner or later, God would give me my own baby girl, and with that gift, I would hold even tighter to you.
I am so sorry for the mean things I've said. For the absolute grief I put you through during my adolescent years. For scaring you with situations I put myself in, for ever lying or hurting your feelings. As I hold my baby girl, her legs sprawl out around me and she tickles my face with her still toddler hands. She holds on to me for dear life and every single night, it's, 'Mommy Put Me Down,' that she requests. Every ounce of her demands me, but little does she know, every ounce of me demands her in return. Somewhere in the middle, did you know that my heart equally needs YOU? MY mother. My flesh and blood, the heart that for so long, beat in unison with my own.
Life scares me. Letting go of my children and watching them grow, well, it's terrifying. I don't have hardly any answers, and four years in, I am still so new to this role of Motherhood. But you are there, six hours away-- praying, thinking, texting me and calling, and from there you are smiling, because you know.
You know that it only gets better. That my heart only loves more, and more, and more. You know that I will endure heartache that I cannot even fathom, that I will trip and fall and get back up to repeat the entire cycle all over again. And you know that you raised a daughter whose heart now beats for her own flesh and blood, but who also needs someone along the way: you.
It may have taken longer then you could have hoped for. I may not live in the same state as you anymore, and I don't get to see you NEARLY as often as I would like. But I finally understand, I finally get it--those tears that you cried when I thought the goodbye's were so simple. The 'I love you's' that you've promised since the day I was born. It all adds up now. I am yours, and you are mine and what a blessing my title of Mother will continue to be, as it gives me glimpses into the amazing goodness that is your heart.
I love you, Mama. Happy Mothers' Day.