My cheeks are burning from the speed and chill on the ice. I inhale the smell of the dry air as I whip around the corner ready to try the jump again. I lift off, certain that it is a good one. I come out of it and land on both feet. Dang. I berate myself as I hear the booming voice of my coach to start over.
I feel my mother’s warm smile beaming from the viewing area. It’s like she is right beside me whispering in my ear just to have fun. One glance to the speaker that bellows out my music, I smile and straighten my shoulders. I wait for the beat to begin. One crisp glide to the first spin and I am off.
I am fueled by the power and motivation that I will make this double salchow. I have to do it. There is no point of me competing if I can’t do the jump to give me higher points. Here we go. Up and away I go. Half way through I think about the land and feel that I will not make it. I land on two feet again. Ignoring my coach, I continue the routine.
I do love figure skating but am not competitive. My family is filled with figure skaters. When I showed interest at four years old, they jumped me into lessons. No one really competed hard, they just enjoyed it. I know I can too.
The momentum steers me around the corner towards the viewing area where all the moms, grandparents and other spectators are watching today’s practice. I look up and catch my mom’s eye. Her smile warms the chill I had felt. Seeing her face reminds me of the talk we had right before practice. She looked me in the eye and told me to have fun, and that is all that matters. If I am nervous, don’t be. Just have fun.
Days later, my right foot is dangling in the green shag carpet. My left is crossed under my right leg. I am snug in my mother’s lap on our black vinyl recliner in our living room. Her arms are wrapped around me like a seat belt. We say our good nights.
As I pad off to go down the hallway to my bedroom she calls to me, “Wait.”
I turn around with a grin. I know what’s next.
“I love you more than a million oceans,” she says.
“I love you more than a million oceans too.” I blow her a kiss.
I hit the pillow in my Star Wars-sheeted bed, unaware that it will be the last night we spend together in the same house.
I awake the next day off to spend two weeks with my grandparents. Unbeknownst to me, my mom is going into the hospital for the last time.
My mom died of breast cancer a week after that fateful day in the arena 26 years ago. Today, I am in the viewing area of the local gymnasium watching my three-year-old going through her routine. She does not land everything nor complete her rolls. She is laughing and smiling at the teacher. Just this morning, I told her the same thing my mother told me all those years ago. When the fun stops we will find something that is. Something tells me today is not the last day.
Through the double-pane glass, I see my darling daughter searching for me. Our eyes connect and share a warm smile. She bounces off to the high bar. Within minutes the class is gathered for the wrap up song and then the door opens.
I hold my arms out to welcome my little acrobat. I ask her if she had fun. She replies with a big “YES!” I get her shoes on and we head out the door to the car.
I only had my mother for the first ten years of my life. I never appreciated her mothering gifts until I became a mom. She never was a great housekeeper or cook, but she gave me a great lesson. Unconditional love is the best gift I could have received from her. We have a lot more in common than I realized since being a mom myself.
I smile to myself as we pull away in the car. Knowing that I parent like my mother makes me feel closer to her.
Later that night, “I got it,” my 3-year-old daughter bellows, ending my childhood memory by bringing me a book for storytime. Bedtime Nursery Rhymes.
We snuggle into our blue fabric chair, which does not recline, in our living room lit only by the reading lamp over our shoulder.
I read the book twice and hug her tight. I do not want to let go.
“Goodnight, sweetheart. I love you more than a million oceans.” I give her a kiss.
“I know, mom. I love you too,” she says as we climb the stairs to her bedroom.
I settle her into her bed. She closes her eyes.
My mother was not able to tell me a lot before she died. Love lessons are worth more than a million oceans. I never knew how to parent. When I became pregnant, I panicked. All I could do and still do is love them with all my heart.
I am not a great cook or housekeeper, but I love my children more than anything, just like my mom always did.