To be clear, this is just one story in my life. We all have so many stories. I could share about how my husband is crazy supportive of me and my career and my running and tolerates my cats. I could share about how inspired I am by my absolutely amazing friends and Dolly Parton and Diana Nyad and J.D. Vance and how finding truth is everywhere we want to look for it and in so many people. But I’m sharing a story that all my friends know because it’s important indefining who I am today and it honors my mother. And she’s a rock star.
Caveat: everything I’m about to tell you is perceptually true. Facts may vary.
While I was growing up, it was mostly just me and my mom. And let’s just say my mother’s parental style was very laissez faire.
– She once lost me in a mall when I was 2 years old.
– I could read a watch (analog) by age 5 so we could split up in a store and meet at a designated time. (does this ring any alarm bells for any moms out there? it should!)
– When I was somewhere around age 5, she instructed me on how to use the public bus system, including a bus transfer, so I could meet her downtown at her work. This involved my mother calling the bus company after multiple attempts on my part to catch the bus to no avail because the bus drivers wouldn’t stop for a child. They thought I was just out by the bus stop having fun and playing around. I can’t remember why I was home alone and had to meet her downtown. This alone seems dubious…but it’s all true (I can only say I was not yet 10 years old, actual age unknown).
And while all of these experiences essentially taught me the same thing – that I was independent and I could take care of myself – my favorite story is one that also occurs when I was approximately age 5. You’ve probably picked up on the fact I’m remembering a lot for my 5-year old self. I’m not sure if my memory is so faulty (a possibility) or if I just know I was older than 4 and less than 10 (likely).
Anyways, when I was 5-ish, I remember I had saved all of my money so that I could buy a pair of sandals at K-Mart. They were white leather with heels and had leather stripes than fanned out over the toes in green, yellow, and red. At some point I walked or biked the ~1 mile to the K-Mart (there were no sidewalks, but luckily there were backroads to the K-Mart, so it was totally safe) and I bought those shoes. I loved those shoes, but, alas, their construction was not to the highest quality standards and they broke pretty quickly. I had a frugal mom and so I knew that I should get a refund or money back, so I did what any normal 5 year old would do – I asked my mom to return the shoes. And she said, “no”. In fact, she said if I wanted to return them, I should just do that myself. This was ludicrous. I couldn’t even see over the rebate counter. But sometimes there’s no arguing with my mom, and this was one of those times.
So I somehow got myself back to the K-Mart, waited in line at the rebates counter, and, when it was my turn, I gathered up my nerves, put my shoes up on the counter, presented my receipt, and asked for a refund (or an exchange – this detail I admittedly forget). And, as you’ve probably guessed, I got it. I got the refund! I was respected and I was a child!!
So here’s the thing. That’s the memory I think of most often when I think of my childhood and what my mom has taught me. Because when I’m faced with a situation where I think I’m not good enough or qualified enough or someone else thinks I can’t or shouldn’t do something, I think about those K-Mart sandals and I know I am good enough and qualified enough and I can do anything. It might be a dress. Or it might be the cape my mom made me.