It has never much mattered to me that my children think so highly of me they can’t recognize my humanity. I never planned to their best friend or their superhero. I just wanted to be a decent mother.
I have been unsure what my legacy to them will be, how they will have perceived their childhood, but my interest, above all else, was in being true to myself, of radiating what is in my heart outward…even if it is burning hot rage or crippling regret. To be honest and real and present instead of trying to maintain the exhausting façade of being perfect and wonderful and happy; this has been my only desire. Anyone who has ever been within 12 feet of one of my bad moods has felt my honesty, like it or not.
Add to this the fact that I am one of those Janes of all trades – proficient at nearly everything but excellent at nothing. I am a decent painter, a pretty good singer, an okay housekeeper. I am of normal intelligence, an excellent taker-of-tests but an awful public speaker. I am a genuinely terrible dancer and an incredibly slow runner. It all averages out to being pretty average.
But according my daughters, I am really, really, really good at one really important thing.
“Mommy loves people,” said my 5 year old at dinner as I made goo-goo eyes at my husband of 13 years. “She is good at loving.” My other kids – who in their infinite pre-tween-dom are deathly allergic to openly praising me – nodded their heads while they chewed. A consensus. I love people. What’s your superpower?
No amount of weight loss (or gain for that matter) or reduction of body fat percentage are ever going to mean any more than that. So in many ways, I have found the pot of gold, discovered the key and unlocked the door. My kids think I am really good at loving people, and if they can remember that always, we are all going to be okay.
I felt it last weekend at my sister’s house, watching an old VHS tape of her wedding, sitting next to her and her husband, people I loved then and love now -- so much that sometimes I awake in a panic that I have lost them. And I think of all the children I have loved “like my own” when others would tell me “that’s impossible – you can never love someone else’s children like you do your own – you’ll understand when you have kids.”
I have kids and I can now say they were wrong. I guess I really am abnormally good at loving people.
I can’t tell you how many kids have sacked out at my house, lovable little puppies huddled under blankets for sleepovers complete with a bacon breakfast in the morning. And those kids – even the shy ones or the hard-to-love ones – get a hug and a kiss at bedtime because I love them, honestly, truly, each and every one.
I felt it at a friend’s wedding earlier this month. Seeing old friends I hadn’t in years upon years, friends who came of age with me. I stood in line at the bar next to my friend Denise and when she ordered her drink, the love rushed through me and I wrapped my arms around her neck and whispered it into her ear.
I almost wept with the relief of it, of having people at whom to direct this raging river that rises up over the banks of me so high I can’t contain it. And sitting with more friends, at that same wedding, puffing on cigars in their sloppy wet disgustingness, chatting about this or that and being unable to stop the rush of words. I love you guys, I am so happy to be here with you. Yeah yeah, enough of that, they joked with mild discomfort, resuming socially acceptable chat about jobs or TV shows or other things. But I was overcome with it, an unstoppable force.
Even friends that have come and gone – through time or misunderstanding or a simple act of growing apart – I love them too, still, because I once did. And it never fully dies if it was there, it just settles a little bit at the bottom of me, a dark well to draw from later if our paths should cross again.
So maybe I am not the best at losing weight or getting to the gym every day. Maybe I eat a few too many Doritos at barbecues and maybe I appreciate a good cream sauce or a fine Pinot Noir
a little a lot too much.
It doesn’t matter, because I have a rare talent: I love people. My kids know this instinctively, and today at least, I don’t really need anything more than that.