From toddlerhood on, Hannah dressed herself in eclectic ensembles pulled out of drawers the moment she was able to reach into them. Every outfit is a fashion statement by a girl who has not yet been burdened with the filter of fitting in.
The loneliness of that realization, that my daughter might have to shoulder the consequences of these stigmas, made me heartsick. I'd made myself believe she would only be challenged by her race and gender, not the basic ability to speak her mind.
I have to point out that I think of and miss my mother every day. If there are days that are especially hard, it is not when Hallmark says I should feel bad, it's when I do: my birthday and her birthday.
Being my mother's only child has been a blessing and a curse. It has meant that I have been lucky enough to have her all to myself. All of her love, generosity and support. When obstacles began to come down our way, it meant that I was the only person who could love her as only a daughter can.
I know when my beautiful, amazing daughter gets married, it will be an incredible time in her life. And I want it to be exactly what she wants. As it should be, I want her wedding dress to be an expression of her style and personality. No one else's should come into play. Especially not mine.
There I was on one end of the phone trying to sound calm, cool and collected because I wanted to protect her. And there she was on the other end of the phone, offering consoliatory words in an effort to protect me, her daughter.
You may recognize the spiral-downward logic when your internal barometer registers that someone is seemingly much more accomplished -- not to mention much more glamorous -- than you are: What decisions have I made that brought me to this place? Have they been the right ones?
I want the mother back who was born sad and could not climb out of her sadness, but who managed a spectacular life. The woman who was born at the wrong time, married the wrong man and had the wrong children. The mother who gathered friends like an abundance of autumn leaves.
Instead of coaching athletes, she has spent the last several years coaching me as I've strived to get better, first from ovarian cancer at the age of 32, then from the autonomic nerve damage the life-saving chemo caused.
My mother died 12 years ago, when I was 23, and I still miss her, every day. But this lesson of independence, more than any other, has given me the direction I needed to navigate my adulthood without her.
My mother died on January 5, 2010. She was 101 years old. Our long association had been troubled from the time of my birth, and throughout my life, I'd found it challenging to choose cards for Mother's Day. So many expressed a gratitude and devotion I couldn't feel.
When Mom presented me with the orchid corsage, it was as foreign as a lacrosse stick. Or a set of knitting needles. "But I'm not a--" "You gave birth to your daughter," my mom explained. "That makes you a mother."
If we could somehow time-travel and meet our mothers when they were 8-year-olds who were afraid of thunder storms, or college students in love with the wrong man, or young mothers-to-be awaiting our births, all that we believe that we know would likely replaced by a different vision.