05/08/2014 12:39 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What I Learned From My Mom

No one really asked about my mom until I was soon to become one, had a sweet girl growing, kicking inside.

"Oh, your mom must be so excited! Will she be staying with you after the baby is born?"

"Is she helping you decorate the nursery?"

"Do you see your mom a lot?"

"I'm sure she loves to babysit!"

People always mean well. Their smiles spill over, eyes shine as they ask, think of their own experiences. I picture worlds with sheets on the line, dough rising in ovens. Soft expressions. Mothers showing familiar rhythms, teaching them to learning hands.

I think of water at night time. "Night night, sleep tight, sweet dreams, I love you." Pigtails wrapped. Recital makeup applied. Toys in the bathtub. Pretzels in the lunchbox.

Being told that I am a wonderful dancer. That I have a lovely voice. That I am beautiful. That every mark on my skin is a beauty mark. That I can do anything.

That she was taken too soon. That she wasn't strong enough. That she was lost in a world I couldn't pull her out of. That I became a woman too soon, saw too much too soon.

Thankfully the good memories are stored, kept on shelves in my mind with boxes of barrettes and Barbie dolls, the scent of my mom's perfume.

I've held onto the good things she taught me: to love love love your daughter. To praise her attempts and accomplishments, to tell her she is beautiful and talented, that her body is perfect and special. To show her that she is worthy of love, that you will cheer her on, that you will give her what you can. That you will turn on the night light, test the bath water, turn the sheets down. That you will try to protect her from your own failings.

I will hold onto them tightly, remember her large blue eyes, how she called me "dolly." I think of her when I bathe my girl, tuck her in at night, tell her she has a beautiful round belly, lovely blue eyes. When I clap for her, click her into her carseat, give her hugs and kisses. When I watch her dance, run around our house with abandon.

I know my mom would smile, tell me that my girl can do anything, too.

I will be sure to pay it forward, Mom.

Thank you.