Having My Mother’s Backbone

My mother is a pretty formidable woman and yet she barely stands over five feet tall.  I always thought of her as humorously diminutive.  I doubt she has a hundred pounds on her lithe frame, but she is an indomitable woman.

We used to live in Northern Virginia and frequently went to DC and Georgetown.  One day, on a packed Georgetown street, she was making a left turn.  Now, knowing my mom, she was doing this with a lead green light after extreme caution and absolute awareness of where every person, car, and whatever was located.  Reckless and my mother?  Not at all.

So, she’s in the middle of the intersection, making her (likely) legal left turn and a man on the other side of the road stuck his head out of his car’s window and shouted, “Who the hell do you think you are?”

“I am Gracelesscurran’s Mother.”  Actually, she said her name.  First name and last name.


And then she kept on driving without a thought of what she had done.

I am lauded by my students for my courage.  I don’t have a drop of courage, just a hell of a lot of bravado and fake backbones.  My mother?  Powerful.  Strong.  A force to be reckoned with.

Given her extreme need for privacy and the fact that she is an introvert, I won’t regale you with stories here about some of the coolest things she’s done.  But, trust me when I say that my mom’s done some pretty epic things.  No, she hasn’t climbed Mount Everest or thrown herself in front of a speeding train and stopped it with her pinky.  She’s not Superman.  She’s my mom.

Mom’s terrified of heights, but I’ve watched her pull herself along a wire fence, crying and praying, over gulleys in Switzerland so that she could make it to an alpine hut tucked close to an avalanche field.

Today is Mom’s birthday.  I called her first thing this morning and sang to her and she cooed and cuckooed.  She is a delight, a joyful woman who, in her 70’s, has the vibrancy of an untamed life.  She lives with fullness and richness.  She lives with courage.

I keep on thinking about my mother.  She started her career in her 30’s after having earned her BA in her late 20’s (I might be getting these years a bit wrong).  I remember going with her to George Mason University when I was 4; I remember sitting in her biology class with her.

Mom used to tell me to chase my dreams.  She literally calls me a “dream chaser.”  I never really thought about what that means until today.  I accepted the complimentary title with apathetic honor and tucked it into my pocket.

Today, on my mother’s birthday, I received my second official rejection for my novel.  Not that big of a deal.  I am actually calling it my third rejection given the other agent never really responded.

I ached a little.  Licked my literary, digital wounds and read my opening pages.  I respected the rejection and appreciated that it was personal to me.  I just wish  I could have understood what it means to have a voice that is “slightly overdone.”  I am not criticizing.  I’m just a bit perplexed.

My gut instinct was to go back in and overhaul yet another time. But I can’t.  I won’t.  Not yet.  I promised myself that I wouldn’t do another edit until I had received 10 official rejections.  I have had 3.  I can’t start smarting this early in the game.

I don’t have my mother’s backbone.  I wish I did.  She’s so incredible, so wonderful.  But she helped me craft my own.  My mother stood up to bullying pickpockets in Rome, screaming at them, “Raus,” out in German.  She has no trepidation about righting wrongs and fixing what’s broken.  She’s pounded the car horn to support protesters.  Most people looked the other way, looked away from the small group of Latin American teenagers who are dreamers who want to earn their way to citizenship.  But Mom reached over and smacked the steering wheel, freaking out my father.

My mother is a woman who chases her dreams.  She latches on to ideas and aspirations and ambitions and surges forward, snagging them in her hands and clutching them to her chest.  She ignores convention to create her own convention.  She crushes cookie cutter molds.

She loves me for my own idiosyncracies.  She doesn’t read my blog because she wants me to have my privacy, so she has no idea how much I relish her and her strength.  I chase my dreams not because my short, stubby, chubby legs can go in pinwheel circles.

I chase my dreams because the strongest woman  alive told me to.

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