Home > Uncategorized > And That Is How I Learned to Love

And That Is How I Learned to Love

My mother was a person who did the impossible, pretty much her whole life, despite circumstances that would’ve cowed a lesser person. I am impossible, but she overcame the impossible, and I think about her strength a lot.

She came from nothing, and despite being insecure, she had a solid sense of herself. Sometimes, my mom would tell me stories of growing up, and say something completely batshit without even blinking. And it was like, “Uh, mom, what do you MEAN you played in a funeral home basement?”

Despite being a strong person (sometimes, infuriatingly so), she was also kind. To basically anyone who showed up at our door. She’d shop for food and toss in things for my oldest, first ever friend. She’s stock up on snacks and chicken nuggets. There was almost always coffee and Entenmann’s something or other.

Usually, I talk about something cool she did. Like the time she made a hoop skirt out of wire hangers (for real and not in a in a Joan Crawford way) and sewed it into a very uncooperative pink dress—by hand. Who does that? My mother, who wanted her daughter to enjoy herself at a themed party. She did not, however, permit me to join the swimsuit competition at that birthday party, because, and I quote, “What the hell? Absolutely not.” I was eight.

One of the things I inherited from my mother is a sense of pride, sometimes to my detriment. I cannot stand to be made to feel less or not valued. It hurts, but I will cover that hurt with anger, and eventually, walk away from whatever—or whoever—made me feel that way. I do not stay where I am not wholly wanted, ever. I’d rather eat glass.

I have learned, perhaps, to temper that side of myself. But not always. Sometimes, it creeps in and makes me rash. I try not to let it, but the worst thing in the world for me is to feel unappreciated and unseen. And that is the quickest way to lose me. But life is too short to settle, to stay somewhere uncelebrated for who you are. Not less, not easier to deal with, not quieter or louder or someone else’s definition of who you should be.

And that is how I learned to love, too: entirely, without pretense, without trying to fit into a mold or shove someone else into one. My mother used to say, “I know you love me, but do you like me?” And that question used to break my heart every time, perhaps more so in retrospect. Because a lot of her life, she dealt with people not liking her for who she was. For me, I like you before I love you, and that’s how it works.

I learned, then, to pay attention to people. To figure out how they work, what their clockwork is, to learn their quiet and the places that ache—the ones, perhaps, never spoken about out loud. I, too, was the weird kid who liked to read. I, too, was a small nerd, proudly carrying around some geek thing or another. I wasn’t supposed to like Batman or the Ninja Turtles, but I did.

This ends with a deeper lesson: you are not here to fill a role, fit a prescribed definition of what/who you should be. Life isn’t about shoulds, and it’s not about pleasing other people to your own detriment. It is not about settling. That truth is etched in bones, and I have my mother to thank for it.

I wish some of you could’ve met her, known her. She would’ve tried to feed you, whether or not you wanted it. I think you would’ve liked her stories, but in their absence, you will simply have to make due with mine.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Patty Blount
    August 7, 2020 at 10:28 am

    Beautiful, Ali. I wish I could have met her.

    • August 7, 2020 at 10:42 am

      I wish you could’ve too! I did talk to her about you!! She was really proud of you.

  2. Delilah dawn
    August 7, 2020 at 11:33 am

    I can still see the smile and love in your moms face as she introduced you to Jean and I. Of course I couldn’t hold you just yet as your mom was just so careful of you as you overcame the impossible to be here now. She loved you with everything she was… she is most definitely watching over you and so proud of the beautiful intelligent young lady you are and so many awesome memories… love you 😘

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