(EDITOR'S NOTE: Here's a column on a unique and fun summer vacation and personal reflections of Michele Szymanski, sister of Studio City Editor, Mike. Please add your thoughts about your mother, and other unique ways of spending your summer vacation in the COMMENTs area below.)
I now understand my mother
So I came to a realization that I think most children do at some point in their lives. At some point you might say to yourself—“oh my God I am turning into my Mother” or “that is just what my mother used to say.”
But I have come to now truly understand my mother. Throughout my life I used to wonder why my mother stayed in a marriage that was miserable, why she didn’t work and get a good job (because she spoke five languages and used to work at the American Embassy in France before meeting my dad).
Why did she stay home and do laundry, cook, drive us around all the time, travel all over the place to see us perform? She used to sit out in the sun in Florida at my track meets, drive Mike up to college and come home with his laundry. She allowed our friends to sleep over and hang out without question. Our house was always the place to congregate. Why didn’t she date after she left my dad, or go travel and see her family in Europe? Why did she hop into her car and drive 9 hours to see my son being born, or come each summer to help me out with Dante so I could finish college? Why did she constantly clean my house, and do so much laundry while staying with us, when I wanted her to just sit down?
Well while I was sitting outside of this cabin, up in Interlochen waiting for Donovan to wake up, thinking about my summer vacation so far, my mother popped into my head. I thought of how I made a trip up here with Donovan, two days on a train,(not a first class jet), spent 2 days in Chicago (not Paris) doing all these things Donovan wanted to do like go to the top of a very high building (I am afraid of heights) and speed rapidly through the waters of Lake Michigan. (No fun knick- knack shopping except a trip to Payless to get Donovan some walking shoes). We ate at prestigious restaurants like Dunkin doughnuts and Bennigans (no 4 star restaurants or fancy wine). We drove five hours in a rented Versa (me as driver), got lost a few times and met Dante up here at music camp (cabins with two twin beds, no internet or TV). The first day here I washed Dante’s clothes and packed breakfast and lunches for Dante and his friend so they didn’t have to run to the dining hall in between lessons and rehearsal. I went shopping at the mall to get medicine for Donovan’s cold and Dante needed a power cord. Again we fine dined on cup a noodles (no gourmet pesto) and instant coffee (no Starbucks). I swam in a reasonably clean lake (not the beaches of Hawaii) and watched Donovan complete a really hard swimming test then waited in the humid weather to see Dante perform (not at the Met but a quite beautiful lake side theater)
Why did I do this? Same reasons my mom did!
I realized that this is what makes me happy. This is what makes my life important for me, maybe not other people, but this is what my purpose is. I am truly happy. I could’ve taken Donovan to a vacation where we could have quickly gotten there by plane, had a great hotel, ordered room service, made him come eat with me in fancy restaurants and make sure he sat up straight ect.
I could have trekked him to see things in Chicago because I thought it was educational for him to see. But instead I opted for creating memories that we will be able to share for a long time. We will be able to reminisce about meeting the mother of Josh from Drake and Josh, and trying to walk without wobbling on the train. I got to experience Donovan laughing so hard his eyes were bugging out, and smiling like he is having the time of his life. We created little inside jokes together that we will share forever and I got to talk in depth to Donovan and find out things about him that I never knew. Like when stopped at one of our train stops there were some vendors selling American Indian jewelry and Donovan wanted one with a Turtle on it.
He told me “I want the turtle necklace because it brings back happy and sad memories.” I asked why and he said that the first time he saw a wild animal it was a turtle at the cemetery where my dad is buried. I never knew that and I then realized too how we never know what kids will remember. If I asked him what present he got last Christmas he wouldn’t know but he remembered that turtle. I also talked to him about life when we saw a statue and it had a quote by Martin Luther King on it that said “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Donovan wanted to know what that meant and we had a glorious discussion about it. He finally told me, “Mom, so it ultimately (yes he used the world ultimately) means that we need to make a difference and help when we can.” Pretty profound for a 9 year old. Plus he will remember it.
I got to see the joy in my son’s faces when they saw each other after weeks apart. Big brother hugging little brother. I was proud that Dante showed us around and introduced us to all his friends up here without feeling embarrassed. He told me how happy he was that we were there and how thrilled he is that his Uncle Mike is coming up. I see the joy on his face as he shows me the percussion building and talks about what he has done and is going to do in the next few weeks. I see the pride in his eyes as he shows me his name on the roster as the 3rd chair percussionist.
I get to experience the hug from my son who also whispers “Thanks Mom” in my ear. I get to experience him growing up into a fine young man and doing the thing that he loves and is his calling.
I realize that this is why my mom did all those things. It made her happy. I wish she would have made the realization herself as I did and didn’t feel she had to drink like she did. If she had made the realization like I have now, she might have been able to enjoy what she had. She loved us so much and wanted to experience everything with us. She let us be the people we wanted us to be, she supported us in all we decided to do or become, and she was there when we needed her in good and bad times.
I realize now too, that my mom was the one person I could always count on to be there, without question. If I mentioned a show I was in, she was there, if I needed money, she was there, if I needed to cry to someone, she was there. I wish I had thanked her more when she could understand. I understand the sacrifices she made might have looked like sacrifices to others, but it was what she wanted to do, same as me now. I don’t feel like I am lacking a thing, or that I am giving up anything at all.
Some will find this dumb, corny, untrue or a reason to justify what I don’t have in my life, but I don’t care. I know that my boys will have memories and that they will know that I will be there for them always. They know that I want them to do what they love to do, and that they don’t have to think about what makes me happy but what makes them happy. If they do that, then I will be happy too.
So I understand why my mom did what she did in her life, and I am proud to say “I am like my mother!”
Thank you Mom