90950_000_005Holding my feelings inside was tearing my mother and me apart. How could I let her know what I was feeling?
While I dreamed of the spotlight and the stage, I could just hear the faint echo of my mother’s proud voice, encouraging me with praises. For as long as I can remember, I have always had a tremendous desire to be a great singer. I didn’t realize it at the time, but inside me was an even greater desire to be close to my mother.
Our relationship needed something, something that some of my friends and their mothers had. It seemed to me that my mother was so caught up in the problems of everyday living that she never had time for me. Sure she did things for me. She cleaned my room, washed my clothes, and cooked my meals like all mothers do. But I needed more and less—less arguments and more love.
I thought my mother always had to be right. When we argued, I would just give up, knowing that would be the only way to settle the conflict. Then later, realizing that she was right, I would apologize. I didn’t feel comfortable unless I did. When I apologized, my mother would turn her head, and from the side view, I could see the movement of her jaw as she gritted her teeth. She would then say, “okay,” with a tone of voice that seemed to say, “I told you so. Just listen to me next time.” I would then storm off, but feeling better that the argument was settled.
One afternoon while sitting on the lawn in front of the Performing Arts Building at Ricks College, waiting for my ride, my neighbor happened to tap me on the shoulder. Connie was a really good friend of my mom’s. I was always jealous of their relationship. I remember overhearing them laughing and talking on the phone. I wished that I could talk to my mom the way Connie did.
Connie sat down beside me. The first thing she said to me was, “I’ll bet I know what you’re doing here.”
“What?” I asked.
“Voice lessons, right?”
“How did you know?”
“Your mother talks a lot about you and your singing. She is really proud of you.”
I was so surprised when she said that. I never knew my mother felt that way. It made me realize that she had been keeping her feelings inside.
That night, as I was climbing the stairs to go to bed, I peeked over the wooden railing to find my mother sitting on the couch. Right then I wanted to tell her that I loved her. It was so hard to even think about saying it. After searching my mind for the words to express myself to her, I just blurted it out, “Mom, I love you!”
It was silent, as quiet as it would be after someone had screamed. I couldn’t tell what she was feeling by the expression on her face. Her big brown eyes filled with tears, the first time I had ever seen my mother’s emotions. With her arms outstretched, she said, “I love you, too.”
Seeing her cry made me want to cry. I ran to her, throwing my arms around her. I never wanted to let go. I couldn’t squeeze hard enough. My heart was full to overflowing as my eyes filled with tears of gratitude. As the tears quietly rolled down my cheeks, I thought of the privilege that was mine to have her as my mother.
I will never forget that. I still remember that night in detail. We talked for two solid hours. It felt so good to let all of my feelings out.
The next day I was to sing at our family reunion. I knew that my mother was going to be there. I wanted to make her proud. After dinner, they announced that I was to sing. I remember being so nervous and turning my head to find my mother looking at me, giving me that certain look of encouragement that I needed.
As I was singing, my throat tightened, and I felt as if my vocal chords had just tied in a knot. It was so hard to sing. I looked at my mom, and I’ll never forget her smile and the nod she gave me. I remember thinking that was better than any command performance I had ever dreamed about. After singing, I sat down beside her and she reached under the table and held my hand.
I’ve learned so much from my mother about being a parent and a friend. Because we took the time to communicate and bridge that gap in our relationship, my mother is my best friend. I’m ready for anything, knowing that my mother is always going to be there for me.
A note from Dianne Francis, Suzanne’s mother: Suzanne wrote this to help other young people see they miss out if they don’t have a close relationship with their mom and dad. Talking helped us realize we were best friends, that we loved each other and enjoyed being together. This knowledge is particularly meaningful to me now, since Suzanne was killed in an automobile accident a few weeks after she wrote this.