In honor of this year’s Mother’s Day, a few of us over at Literally, Darling have put together an ode to our Mothers’ Wisdom.
Maybe it’s not something we’re willing to admit through our teenaged years, but the older I get, the more and more I realize that my mother is packed full of knowledge, helpful hints, advice, and hilarious stories from her youth. (“Now Melissa, drugs were safer back when I was young,” she says as she often jokes about her Flower Child days). She taught me the importance of wearing eye cream as early as twenty, how to draw inspiration from the 1970s, the significance of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, why you should always cook with wine, how to laugh at yourself and your mistakes, and the ability to stand with (and sometimes even up to) your family. My momma, as I endearingly call her when I’m feeling particularly Southern, gave me all the reasons why I want children of my own someday. Sometimes my momma doesn’t have any advice at all; sometimes, she just listens (which is a rarity in the Cox family). She embodies patience, kindness, and that kind of love we all aspire to have and give.
My mom has taught me that being a lady is as much acting and dressing the part as it is having enough respect for yourself and others to be well-mannered; the graciousness to make others welcome; and the courage to kindly tell people to go to hell with a straight spine, fire in your eyes, and velvet murmur of “Oh honey, bless your heart.” Even more so that while there’s a time and a place to kill them with kindness, there are also times to whip out your claws, tear their face off with your bare hands, and spit on their grave if they mess with your family. Tradition and heritage aren’t just pomp and circumstance or nostalgic homages to the dead, but an understanding of who you are, what you come from, and something that gives you the forbearance and foreknowledge of the future. Cooking a meal is less about eating than a declaration of your feelings, and nothing says “I love you,” like a table laden with food. She taught me to cry at war memorials, always say please and thank you, to never to let an animal or child go unloved, and that nothing on this Earth is more important than family. I was raised to know that we must be willing to look into the darkness, and though we may fear it, we can never shy away from it, even when sometimes that darkness is inside us. Responsibility is a way of life based on an unwavering groundwork of right and wrong, which goes past just making good decisions, and is a cross we all must bear for ourselves, our loved ones, and our nation. Mom raised me to dance during thunderstorms; taught me how to ride a horse; instilled a deep and abiding love of the countryside and the ocean; and showed me that any ailment can be cured with a dog, music, and my own brain. More than anything else though, she taught me that the only labels that matter as a woman are also the three strongest words in the English language – Mother, Daughter, and Sister.
My mom taught me how to dance in the rain. She taught me how to dig my hands into a bowl of corn masa and form a tamale. My mom enchanted me with her waving hands and bright eyes. My mom told me how to love – with everything I’ve got. My mom also told me when to let go, or more importantly, when to stand up for myself. My mom is picante, meaning spicy. She dances in public places, sings when she feels like it, laughs with the world and smiles upon her life. My mom has given me strength to travel, telling countless stories of unknown places, of artists from ancient lands, poets, and muses. My mom has taught me about peace, how to keep it, how to find it in troubled times. My mom has bestowed on me the gift of Spanish, of Salsa dancing, of Chile Relleno, and laughter around dinner tables. My mom has taught me how to make the most of what I have; that re-arranging furniture can be just as fun as buying it. She let me climb trees and convinced me of my strength to conquer mountains. My mom has taught me life. And what more could I ask for?
My mom has always been a role-model and a friend to me, even at our most contentious points. She shares my love for larger-than-life drag queens, drug-induced mid-century novels, designer fabrics, and pine trees that smell of vanilla. I’ve called her in tears during more existential crises than I’d like to admit. As a feminist and an environmentalist, she taught me to always speak up, act up, and to always be independent. She taught me to never let others define me, to never let myself be put into any box, and to never be apologetic for the person I am, however ridiculous that person may be. Basically, she taught me to be weird. From teaching me the latin names of all the plants on our hikes, to having me assist in changing tires, she encouraged me to be competent and knowledgeable from an early age. I was raised to be shamelessly curious about the world, to never take things at face value, and to always stop and smell the trees (even if people stare at you while you do so). She taught me to work with my hands as well as my brain, to never be intimidated by tasks that require problem-solving, and to never back down from a debate. She also emphasized that it’s okay to fall short sometimes. Not everything in life will go well, but we learn from our mistakes and grow from all experiences. Sometimes falling down is the best thing you can do. Overall, she taught me that the world is an absurd place, so you better face it with fierceness, individuality, a dark and sparkling wit, and resilience.
Over the years my mother has imparted some crucial advice to me. Tread lightly, but drive a big truck. Always stop for squirrels. Only watch Syfy Channel on Sunday, because that’s when the best movies are on. Being short and blonde doesn’t mean you can’t be terrifying. Do your best, and that will be enough. And don’t care what people think of you. When I was a kid, I did a lot of weird things. I would always ask my mom “does this make me weird?” My mom would shake her head, and answer “no, that’s what makes you Hope.” My mom taught me that weird isn’t bad – weird is unique, weird is quirky, weird is good. It may, at times, have been with a resigned sigh, but my mother always allowed me to be no one other than exactly who I am. My mother has taught me that loving people isn’t a weakness, and emotion is not scary. As someone who shies away from affection or emotional confessions, I often can come off as cold and uncaring. But my mother is in possession of the largest and warmest heart of anyone I’ve ever met. Over my 20 years, she has shown me that while opening up your heart to people may sometimes get you hurt, there is nothing more fulfilling than when it is returned. More than anything, my mother taught me how to love: fiercely, entirely, and without hesitations.
My mom has taught me the importance of daring to dream the big dreams. The ones that you know only have a small chance of ever coming true. The ones that if you said them out loud you would worry that people might think you were too big for your britches. But they are important – they serve to keep you pointed in the direction of your goals. They keep you going even when things look hopeless. She always says, “Reach for the moon and you’ll end up among the stars.” So the point isn’t to set up unachievable goals, rather, it is to draw inspiration from the possibilities as you move into the future. If I ever said, “I could never do that”, my mom’s response is “why not?” She’s taught me to enjoy the journey, and ultimately the end goal doesn’t matter. Rather it is living your life with no regrets. Never looking back and wishing you had taken another path.
My mom was determined that because I was born in a blackout on the same day that Audrey Hepburn passed away, she must have given birth to Miss Hepburn reincarnated. My mother trained me to eat with my elbows off the table and to stand as if my shoulders and head were attached to strings connected to the sky. She spooked me with her superstitions that she most likely propagated herself, and made me promise her that I would never eat pasta on a first date. When I was convinced to be a Spice Girl, my mother threw me a Spice Girls themed birthday party decked out with party favors that correlated to each Spice Girl, such as: cheetah print for Scary Spice fans, arm tattoos identical to Sporty Spice’s tattoo for her fans, lipstick for Posh Spice fans (FYI- I, myself identify with Posh), pigtails for Baby Spice, and to be honest, I think she completely forgot all about Ginger Spice (poor gingers). However, despite her oblivion for Ginger Spice, that is just it. Minus the etiquette lessons, she never placed me on a conveyor belt to her dreams, but rather a conveyor belt to mine. And as corny as all of this may seem – but then again, my mom was pretty corny too, my mother was a woman of support and living life as a free spirit. She never once confined me into doing something I did not want to do, no matter what the costs could measure up to. She told me as my mom, I was her everything; and likewise, as my mom, she is my everything. To sum up what my mom has taught me during her short-lived life, she gave me the world and taught me how to live in it, and to remember that it is a world of possibilities.