I am now in the 5th decade of my amazing life.  I am a Leo and like the lioness, I am fierce, fiery, aggressive, strong, confident, the provider, the fighter, the hunter, the all-day sleeper and all night prowler. I am the feared and the furious, the playful and affectionate.  No one ever has to wonder what I am thinking, it is always abundantly clear, like it or not.  My children know, true to my sign, I would fight to the death for them. The path leading me to being their mother was a long and arduous journey but so worth each and every happy, yet sometimes heartbreaking, footfall.

But will they ever know what all of that really means?  Will they ever know the many versions of me that walked that path?  Will they ever know the girl that I was, the teenager, the young adult who was always swimming against the tide, fighting and clawing her way through the jungle that is the world?  I have no YouTube videos to prove my youthful beauty, only some old tattered photographs taken with a Kodak or a Polaroid. I have no streaming videos of my antics and escapades with my friends or digital proof of how I rocked them when they were sick or laughed at all their silly mispronounced words that made me laugh so.

I only have scrapbooks and stories of who I once was.  I once was a quite beautiful child of the 60’s.  I wore flowers in my hair, smoked pot, took LSD a few times, loved mescaline, went to free concerts at American University and saw many of the bands my children are in awe of today; The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers Band and so many others I have lost count.  I danced barefoot in the rain and even rocked the crowd on top of a bar once or twice to some long-haired rock and roll musicians playing so loud the walls would shake.

me smokingon the bar

Could they ever imagine my best friend and me hatching great schemes to get the bad boys to notice us by pretending we didn’t care what they thought of our appearance (after hours of tireless make up and fashion prep)?  How could my two grown boys understand the depths my girlfriends and I went to in coordinating outfits, trying on and discarding clothing to the point it looked like my room had been ransacked, mixing and matching jeans and crop tops to be certain our best features were prominently displayed?

girls young

We pretended we didn’t see the star-struck studs picking their tongues up off the ground as we sashayed by so non chalantly as though not a single thought had been put into our perfectly timed arrival at the exact spot where they just happened to be congregated.

Will my sons ever know how well I could ride a stallion? Or that I could jump that stallion over a course of several 5-foot fences bareback without flinching?  Will they ever know what kind of training, dedication and talent that takes when they unearth an old at faded picture of me on my horse after I am long gone? Will they know my heart has been broken more times than I can possibly remember when they see that picture of me smiling with sadness in my eyes? Could they even imagine me in my bell bottom jeans and flowered halter top gathered with hundreds of thousands in DC protesting the war in Viet Nam?

protest viet nam

Yes, they have heard the stories, just as I heard stories of my mom on the rare occasions she chose to share a part of her youthful heart with me but she was always just my mom.  As children, that is all we can possibly know of our moms, what they or a few family members choose to share with us.

I wish now I could have known my mother when she was young.  I was told she was “wild” and “uncontrollable” – words I have heard many times describing me.  I wish there were some way, once we were adults, we could step back in time and observe our moms as young girls and women and bear witness to their passions, dreams and even their heartaches.  I know that there are secrets we all keep from our children, for that was our time of youth, to grow, learn and make lots of mistakes so part of us hangs on to it tightly, like a treasure box to open at times when we want to go back.  Those times when you look in the mirror and wonder where that young girl has gone and want to visit her, hop on that horse with her and fly like the wind.

mom young

 My mom at 15 (left) and me about the same age.   Below: My wedding.

me young1 me and ma

I remember my mother sharing stories with me but I never really listened, I never closed my eyes and imagined her front and center at the age and place she was describing to me.  I wish I had known my mom before she was my mom, when she was just a playful girl, a sassy teenager and a young woman with the world at her feet.

me young shorts and sandals

Moms only open their treasure box at special times and select only the memories they want to share, hoping it will spark some interest or a curious glimpse of wonder in their child’s eyes.  My two sons don’t have much interest in the me that once was and my stories are met with a grin or a nod and the conversation moves on. I want to scream and yell, “I was young and beautiful and I wasn’t always a mom!  I was invincible, chased by many and only caught by a few wild young men I thought were the answer to all my prayers. I was funny, loud, and a little bit blue sometimes but could always make my friends laugh. My hair was gold and shimmered in the sun and my eyes as blue as the as my indigo jeans.”

me canoeme and holly

Maybe these things are better left unknown to our children but I would give anything to take a glimpse back in time at my mother running and flirting, tossing her long brown locks driving some young boy absolutely crazy.  I would love to have seen her take that 5-foot. jump on an 800 pound horse with no fear, hair in the wind and her heart on fire with passion.

My tears fall as I write this. Getting older doesn’t make me sad; I cry because I want them to know I was and am more than their mother, that I was a girl once with a beautiful horse and a pocket full of carrots. I want them to know that some boys thought I was the most beautiful thing they had ever laid eyes on and I bet some of them still think of me today.

I want them to know that I was as wild and free as the horse I galloped on and that back then the world was mine.  They were not part of it then, it was all mine and I am not ashamed to say that at times, like now, I miss that world that was all mine.  Would I trade one tender moment with either of them to go back?  No, not a chance. I go back and visit those days often though, sometimes alone in my thoughts and other times with the very girlfriends I shared them with.

girls oldersistergilrsme mags viv

I wouldn’t trade those memories for all the money, fame or fortune in the world!  That young, wild girl is still a part of me, a part of my children’s mom and every once and a while, to their complete horror and embarrassment, they catch me dancing and twirling to Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones and singing it like a rock star in the organic food section of Wegmans!  This flower child is still stardust, still golden…..

“I bet your mama was a Cajun Queen,
And all her boyfriends were sweet sixteen
I’m no school boy but I know what I like
You should have heard them just around midnight” – The Rolling Stones

An abridged version of this was published on Better After 50 on April 7, 2015



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