My earliest memory is of my father leaving me out on the front porch of our apartment in Austin. I was about two at the time, my mother was at the laundromat, and my dad had forgotten something, so he walked me back to our home and left me on the front porch while he ran in to get it. It was at that time that I made what may have been the first conscious decision of my life and walked right back to my mother. Now, we lived in a big complex and the laundromat was a fair distance from our front door. I can’t imagine what neighbors must have thought, seeing this toddler just strolling through the parking lot by herself, but eventually, I made it back to my mother.
For those wondering, yes, my dad got the metaphorical beat down of the century for leaving me alone on the front porch.
The impact a mother has on the life of her child is pretty much impossible to describe in words, because no word will ever do her justice. Love. Unconditional. Strength. Sacrifice. Protection. Support. Encouragement. Friend. So, instead of making this about me and her impact on my life, I’m going to share hers instead.
I really don’t know what’s going on in this picture.
The first thing I tell people about my mom is that she was born Susan Elizabeth Jones and later went on to marry a Smith. How terrible is that? I mean, seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad she married my Daddy and I definitely wouldn’t have it any other way… but from Jones to Smith. I can’t think about it for too long or else I get sad. But they’re soul mates. They’re best friends. They laugh together. They’re honest with each other. They can talk about anything with each other. They’re supportive. They’ve been together through thick and thin, and they came through everything together. They’re my inspiration for what I hope for in a relationship.
Fortunately, my mother’s dull last names are the only boring thing about her. Her past and present are full of laughs, awkward stories, and fulfilled dreams. One of my favorite story from her childhood is one that her two older brothers like to tell. My uncles, by the way, are hilarious. They’re probably partly where I get my twisted sense of humor from. They’re ten and eight years older than my mom and they’ve always told her that she was an accident. Poor kid.
Anyway, the story goes that Jack and Ron (the uncles) were tossing a football around in the front yard. Mom was about three at the time, and she was toddling around the yard, not really paying much attention to anything. Well, Jack tossed that football, hit her square in the back of the head, and she face planted. Fell right over. My uncles thought they’d killed her.
Okay, writing it down, it doesn’t seem like a very funny story, but the way my uncle tells it is just flat out hilarious. And she was totally fine, so you know.
Besides, she totally broke my finger with a football when I was in seventh grade, so there you go.
My grandmother, June (whom I called Mimi) and my mom, probably a year or two before the football incident.
My mom is the one who taught me to follow my dreams. She is a huge inspiration to me because her own dreams came true. She told me that, growing up, all she wanted to do was fly. She wanted to be a flight attendant. And that’s exactly what she did. Her favorite stories from her days of flying include the time she had KISS on her airplane and she got to see what they looked like without makeup. She also met Alice Cooper.
Earning her wings.
While neither of us could have possibly known at the time, my mom has encouraged me, from about the time I showed the slightest hint of a personality, to express myself. She taught me to be creative. She read to me constantly. I still remember sitting on the couch in our apartment in Austin, eating raisins, playing with stickers, and reading books. She gave me blank sheets of paper and markers. She sang to me and played me music. It’s no wonder, after that kind of childhood, that I would grow up to be who I am.
Teaching me to be artsy from an early age.
We even wrote a poem together when I was 2. It still hangs on the bulletin board in our kitchen. I guess it counts as the first thing I ever co-wrote.
Momma Kitty Poem
I have a big fat Calico Cat! Her name is Momma Kitty And she is oh so pretty! She likes to eat and play Then sleep most of the day. She’s white and orange and black, A most unusual cat! Oh, I love my Momma Kitty But she’s not so itty-bitty!
By: Jacqueline and Susan Smith 12/11/90
Momma Kitty was the cat my mother rescued from the dumpster behind her work. She found her and her kittens and rescued her. My mom loves animals, if possible, even more than I do.
This is Momma Kitty.
Oh, look! A cat tree!
Feeding ducks. She really likes ducks. And chickens.
One of my favorite things about my mother is how close I am to her and how honest she has always been with my sister and me. From the time we were born, she treated and talked to us as equals. She always engaged us, even before we were old enough to understand. She’s so open, in fact, that she’s able to tell us that, growing up, she never wanted children. Thanks, Mom. Thanks a lot. Glad you changed your mind.
Let’s be honest. She does look pretty miserable with that baby doll. Glad that’s not me.
She looks happy in these pictures, right?
Admittedly, not as happy as she does with Mickey Mouse…
Really, I wonder why I love Disney so much.
Or this enormous teddy bear…
But you know, as far as kids go, I guess we’re okay.
In all seriousness though, as much as we like to tease her for the things she says, especially gems like…
Me: Do you want to relive my childhood and paint Easter Eggs this weekend? Mom: No.
… I don’t know anyone who is more proud to be a part of her children’s lives, or who has scarified more than she has for our family. There is literally nothing she would not do, not only for my sister or me, but for anyone that she loves. She just has that gift. She sees the goodness and beauty in everyone. She is always genuinely happy for friends and loved ones even when she’s not happy herself (which is pretty rare, but we all have our days). She knows and loves everyone, and everyone knows and loves her. She sees the goodness and beauty in everyone. It’s something I admire most about her, and quite frankly, something I truly envy. Very few people have that gift.
So excited on my graduation day!
So excited to see my sister star in Little Shop of Horrors!
My mother has taught me the importance of loving and enjoying life, even when times are tough, and to appreciate every moment. True joy is such a gift, and as rare as it is, it’s also so easy to find just in the simplicity of living. Very few things in life bring my mom greater joy than the simple act of celebrating and decorating for holidays, especially Halloween and Christmas. She is quite literally obsessed. Around here, we call her the Holiday Hoarder because of how many decorations she puts out.
My mom is the reason I am who I am. She inspires me to be the best I can be, and I hope and pray every day that I make her proud, as proud as I am to be her daughter. I love you, Mom, and I am looking forward to many more years of laughter, awkward stories, good food, weird movies, and simple celebrations of life.
Happy Mother’s Day!
PS – I’m sorry that no Mother’s Day gift we give you will ever be as good as Stephen King’s Misery. I really just don’t know how we’re going to top that.