My mom taught me to believe in hope. Though this didn't change her mood towards my first tattoo: the word "hope" in a script font on my left wrist. In fact, when I was on my way to meet my two best friends at Psycho Tattoo in Marietta, Georgia she called and asked me the simple question: "Are you doing this because you think I don't love you?"
I laughed, but she wasn't really kidding. She needed to make sure I knew how much she loved me because maybe if I did, I wouldn't be scarring my body for the rest of forever. But then, at age 18 and a mere weeks from moving into my freshman dorm at Lee, I don't think I really did understand it. Like any eighteen year old, there was still a lot I didn't know, or rather a lot that I thought I knew.
What I did know was this: I knew that my dad wasn't around much, and that I didn't enjoy his company when he did bother to show. I knew that one of my brother's blamed her for his absence and that he had spent the last year of high school living at a friend's house. I didn't know why my mom was always fighting with my oldest brother, but I did know that when they did fight there was a high probability that a cop would be at our doorstep within thirty minutes with the threat of another trip to juvi. I knew that my younger brother was on the autism spectrum, but I didn't know exactly what that meant or how his brain processed things different than mine. And I didn't know why in high school I felt so angry and so sad and so unimportant, but I did know that it wouldn't always be that way. I knew that despite all the mess I was born into, I still had hope.
My mom never sat me down to explain it to me. We never had in depth discussions about the fight it takes to take that flight of hope. Though now that I think about it, she did recite "Hope Is The Thing With Feathers" to me several times during my adolescence. And while Emily Dickenson did help, I experienced more hope from watching my mom rise in a house full of loud, angry, chaotic children and just try her best. Each morning she woke up alone, and for a split, numbing second she would maybe forget how she ended up a single mother of four with a husband who wove in and out of the fabric of her and her children's lives only as he and the substances he abused pleased. But that moment would pass quickly as she would be reminded by a blaring snooze alarm on her bedside table that yes, that did happen. And she had four kids who depended on her. And a car that needed gas and a mortgage that needed paying. The day had to get done and she had no choice but to get up and do it.
And so she did.
There was a kind of light in her that flickered. And it grew when, in spite of everything, she turned the pages in her Bible and prayed every night and when she sang worship music in the car. She taught us that in persecution and death, Jesus was delivered to the arms of His father and that one day, we would be too. She believed that her children might redeem her, but knew that sometimes we wouldn't. Like Christ, she led us with whatever fighting light she had left in her, and she passed it on knowing we had to face our own choices, make our own mistakes, and get whatever tattoos we deemed necessary, despite her many protests.
I've learned a lot since I was eighteen. Like how therapy works wonders and that most of the time, all people need is a little grace. I've learned to love my mom more each day and she sheds light on the past, equipped with a brighter hope for the future. Because the thing about hope. Like light, it spreads. Like a lighthouse, it guides. And one day we come home and our hope is redeemed. I think when I go home, to my mom's house in Georgia with the big, green vine wrapped behind that oh so southern porch swing, we each sit in the heat of the summer and see hope sitting from across the table. And for that I am forever thankful.
Happy Mother's Day.
"Georgica Pond" by Johnnyswim, as inspiration for the title to this piece.