My mother was a free spirit trapped in a socialite’s body. She was kind of a cross between Matthew McConaughey and Princess Diana. It was an amusing juxtaposition to observe- this classy, mature, and elegantly-dressed woman who relished the opportunities to let loose and be goofy. As a young girl, I looked up to her; but it wasn’t until I became a mother, that I appreciated her genuineness and ability to carouse.
Mom lost her kidneys when I was 14 years old. She received a kidney transplant two years later, and for the rest of her life, she battled illnesses and pains. Despite her debilitating health, she kept living her life as best she could. One afternoon I remember going to my parents’ basement. As I walked down the stairs I heard the whoosh, whoosh sound of an elliptical gliding back and forth. And then I heard this very loud, and very tone deaf, humming. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I said, “Mom?” with a chuckle. She couldn’t hear me in her oversized headphones. She was moving at a very slow pace, yet her skin sparkled with sweat. Singing was difficult as she pushed against the machine’s resistance with her fragile arms. I stood and watched for a few seconds before she jolted me with a loud: “I’m sorry mama. I never meant to hurt you…but tonight I’m cleaning out my closet…” in her adorable, Costa Rican accent. It was Eminem. My 60-some year old mother was singing along to Eminem.
I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I too, developed my mom’s affinity for dancing, good beats, and fashion. Before having kids, I was frequently out and about; dancing was my catnip. Then when I hit 28, and my belly expanded with new life, I assumed mine was over. I thought parenthood would surely leave me in a constant state of stretchy pants, On Demand movies, and nursery rhymes for the rest of my life (which it did for a few years). Having two boys 15 months apart left me in a constant state of exhaustion that squashed any transient urge for leather pants and nights out. But then it happened. When my eldest child turned four, the 20 year-old in me reawakened. “I missed you,” she said. “Now go get those leather pants.”
Just the other day, I was driving by myself. The stereo was blasting, and I was pretending I knew the lyrics to one of Lil Wayne’s songs. As I was belting out the wrong words, I looked over as I felt someone staring at me. The driver next to me was gazing with confusion as his eyes ping-ponged between me and the empty car seats behind me. “Yes,” I thought, “I’m a mom who still raps.” And then I kept singing.
Recalling my preconceived notions, I feel silly for jumping to such conclusions because I was so wrong. I never lost myself to yoga pants and nursery rhymes, as I assumed I would. Motherhood didn’t kidnap my affinities, dreams, or desires; nor did it make me feel old. I think I owe all of that to my mom’s years of modeling. Her confidence and authenticity gave me the courage to be myself, even if that meant rapping the wrong lyrics in my leather pants. Sure motherhood branded me with stretch marks and dark circles, but it never stole my youth. I learned it didn’t have to, and it never will.