i’ve told you before that my high school experience was well, unique, right? that spending your formative years with a mere 85 fellow students can make for some interesting times. but despite the fact that we were one big dysfunctional family, i wouldn’t have traded those memories for the world. mostly because our school had some pretty awesome traditions that just wouldn’t be possible if implemented in a public school four, five, six times the size.
one of these so-called “traditions” is the mother/daughter tea held in the spring semester. junior and senior girls are invited to attend with their mothers for an afternoon of crudites and crying. yes you read that correctly, CRYING. as in ugly crying, the kind of sobbing that includes convulsing and eyes so red and puffy any passerby would swear you had just had an allergic reaction to shellfish (think will smith in hitch).
and don’t get me wrong, this fancy little function is always a fabulous occasion overall. usually held in a local country club’s banquet hall, it’s totally the type of outing you look forward to going to if only for the fact that there are unlimited petit fours at your fingertips and an excuse to go shopping for a new sundress is completely warranted. but aside from all of that, for the senior girls in the room,
or maybe just me,
it’s kind of the most emotionally draining afternoon i have ever had in my entire life. ENTIRE life.
because as tradition states,
and we are NEVER ones to break tradition,
this afternoon is dedicated to essentially saying goodbye/thankyou/what in the world am i ever going to do without you? to our mothers as we embark on our journey from the nest and into the cruel hands of the real world. actually scratch that, the “real world” came four (er, three) years later. i was off to pepperdine, there wasn’t really anything “cruel” about that. except maybe the traffic on the 405.
but i digress.
side note: junior girls are invited to simply “experience” the mother/daughter tea in hopes that they glean insight for their participation in the festivities the following year. they don’t actually have to read anything or address their mothers (who are also invited, i’d assume to also prepare themselves for the emotional battle that is to come) in any way -it is important to keep this in mind as i finish the rest of this “side note” (which is basically a “side novel”). i, myself, (as did my momma) attended as a junior and well, let’s just say, that might have been the second most emotionally exhausting afternoon of my life. yep, that was me. the girl sitting in the front row squeaking out yelps as i tried to stifle my sobbing. it got so bad that my mom looked at me at one point during the course of the afternoon and asked me if i needed to excuse myself so as to not interrupt the rest of the presentations. i politely declined and tried to pull myself together. it was a big hot mess. I WAS a big hot mess. and yes, though i knew and loved the girls in the class ahead of me, i didn’t have super strong ties with any of them or their mothers, so basically i was crying uncontrollably at strangers’ stories about how their mothers were the most influential people in their lives and how they wouldn’t be half the woman they were today without their guidance and affections.
it was as if i was trapped in my own personal hallmark commercial.
or that one google commercial where the dad writes emails to his daughter throughout her childhood. you know, this one:
i vividly remember sitting in the car with my mom after the tea had concluded, my eyes swollen, mascara-stained tears clung to my cheeks. and as we pulled out of the parking lot of the country club she matter-of-factly stated, “i have no idea how you’re going to do this next year.” and despite being physically spent from about three hours of straight sobbing, i managed to muster out, “i have no idea, either.”
fast forward a year. i was now a senior and though the locale of the tea had moved from one country club to another (does that sound as pretentious as i think it does?), the sentiments were the same. the letter had been written. and now it was my time to share it. the podium stared back at me with its haughty mahogany. mocking me. and rightly so. it was my worst nightmare -public speaking, not just that, public speaking from the heart with a speech stitched together with the fabric of my insides to the woman who i loved more than anything else in this world. and did i mention i’m extremely prone to bouts of crippling emotion? yeah, i think i made that pretty clear, too.
but at least i was in a really fun and flouncy party dress. (and yes, i can remember exactly what i was wearing. it was a tea-length (tea-length at a tea! i’d like to think i was that clever but no, the dress hem was not dictated by the details of the event that afternoon) hot pink dress with, SHOCKER, black polka dots. it was 2003 and that whole 40’s inspired look had made a comeback. funny, i feel like it makes a come back every year. or maybe just now that mad men is a thing. and before you get on me about the fact that mm is set in the 60’s, let me say this, there are quite a lot of the female fashions on that show that i would equate with the 40’s in addition to the time frame 20 years later. just sayin’.
but seriously, this digression.
we were advised that we would present in alphabetical order, which meant that i had half of the alphabet (one of the perks of being an “n”) to get it together before it was my turn at the mike. and though some of the speeches were extremely heartfelt and worthy of tears, i was too nervous to cry. it was as if all of my tears were building up for release during my address (p.s. doesn’t “address” evoke something really really important, like the “state of the union address?” apparently i think quite highly of my speech to place it in that high of caliber of a category. yep, that’s about right). i remember thinking, come on ducts, can i at least have a few steady streams so as to alleviate some of this back-logged saline? but despite my best efforts, when it was finally time for my letter to be read aloud, my nose twitched with anticipation, and upon the utterance of the first word, i knew was a goner. cue the floodgates in three, two…
i immediately burst into the ugliest cry there ever was (lofty statement-town, population: me), and as i stood there channelling ever ounce of composure i could possibly muster, the room fell silent. my raw emotion was visceral. but thankfully i couldn’t help but feel comforted by the absence of noise around me. it was as if, for that fleeting moment, every single mother and daughter in that room understood the reason for my blubbering state. because it was common knowledge that my bond with my momma was special. that in addition to being the best mother that a gal could ask for, she was, my very best friend. so you know, you try composing yourself when 18 years of gratitude is supposed to be conveyed in a succinct 8 1/2 X 11 piece of paper.
after about a minute of attempting to start and restart reading my letter aloud, i finally took a deep breath and attempted for try number 547. and then i made the mistake of looking out into the room and to the very table where my mother sat, and as soon as her eyes caught mine, the cycle unfolded all over again. more tears. more hiccups. more delay. so in typical “me” fashion, i eased the crowd with sarcasm and concluded that i would refrain from direct eye contact with the lady of the hour for fear that my presentation would last the duration of the afternoon (you’d be surprised how long it takes to compose yourself after each mini-break down).
and though looking off into the distance as i read a very personal message to my mother (instead of actually looking at my mother) might have seemed inauthentic, trust me, it was the ONLY way i was making it through that speech. the ONLY way.
and thankfully for me, i had sprinkled my letter with inside jokes and witty remarks in hopes that the laughs would be a welcomed break from all of the tears. and it worked, for a time. but then would come a sentence that shot me back to my knees. but as i attempted to push through; my vision now blurred by the tiny pools of tears that had taken temporary ownership of my eyes, i couldn’t help but notice that for once, i wasn’t the only one fostering baby orbital waterfalls and somehow knowing we were all in it together -this emotional roller coaster of mine -made the final stanzas flow from me with unprecedented poise. and just like that, i was finished, and for a moment, i could breathe again.
and i’ve tried really hard to track down the collection of words that were read aloud that day, but the passage of nine years hasn’t warranted a quick discovery. i do recall, however, that the opening line required me to scream my high school nickname at the top of my lungs as i described a day in the life of the high school-version of yours truly (spoiler alert: she’s not much different than the almost late-20’s (<–gulp!) version, except the former certainly had longer (and better) hair). i also remember mentioning that i would miss both my mother’s signature dinner of turkey burgers (yeah, this one time i was a fan of poultry), top ramen & cabbage salad, and roasted red potatoes, as well as, well really, all of the simple pleasures that come with living with your rents (i know, there are actually more pros than you think) -like free laundry (never mind the fact that i may or may not have taken advantage of this while in college, too) or unlimited paper products (hello, one of the most annoying things about adulthood is [peyton] manning up and having to use your expendable income on items like toilet paper and paper towels), or you know, just free food in general.
but maybe the thing i can recall most vividly with regards to the contents of that note was the fact that it emphasized and reemphasized not only how much i would miss my best friend in the whole world but also, and maybe more importantly, of how incredibly grateful i was for her countless sacrifices and unconditional love over the years.
and perhaps at this pause in the story you’re thinking to yourself,
“self? why is she divulging all of this with us? wouldn’t these thoughts be better expressed in privacy of a hallmark card or something?”
well, selfs (ok, ok, it’s actually “selves”) out there, you’re probably right.
but can you imagine me trying to fit all of this into a 4X6 paper card? even with employing my super stealth baby font there is still no way that all of this voraciousness would be fittin’ up in there.
and since momma reads this blog on the regular, by posting all of this on here, it’s kind of just killing two birds with one stone.
and maybe i’m just that selfish that i want y’all to know just how amazing my mother really is. but if you’ve met her, then, you’re well aware of that already.
you know those kids who say, “guys, i have the best mom in the world.” and then everyone rolls their eyes and says, “yeah, yeah, SURE she is” when deep down inside they know that’s too lofty of a statement to actually hold merit.
well i’m that kid, telling y’all that i really do have the best mom in the world. except this time i’m not exaggerating. i’ve met a lot of mommas over the course of my lifetime and no disrespect to them, but i can’t help but think mine really does outrank the rest.
to know her is to instantly love her.
to know her is to also think she may or may not drink copious amounts of caffeine on a daily basis. (not really, she just has that much energy; i know, i’m still not quite sure where it comes from, either).
to know her is to realize that despite her petite frame, inside that chest is the heart of someone five times her size.
and finally to know her is to know that without a shadow of a doubt, she will forever be your biggest fan, loudest cheerleader, most savvy bargain shopping buddy, and devoted friend.
to know her is to wish she was your mom, too (it’s okay, i don’t mind sharing).
it has been nine years since i wrote and delivered that speech in the banquet hall of lomas santa fe country club just a handful of weeks before my high school graduation. and despite the passage of time, hairstyles, and boyfriends (me, not you, obviously), every single sentiment remains. you are still my very best friend. i am still grateful for every sacrifice you’ve made in my name. and i know that no matter how old i get, there will never be a situation too grave that a hug and a kiss from you can’t instantly amend.
i love you to the moon and back.
your little loulee