Walking is something we all do, some more than others. Now that I live in Chicago, I walk a lot more than when I lived in suburb and drove nearly everywhere.
Because of my mother I’m always very aware of my body and its presentation while walking.
“Push your shoulders back!”
“Turn your feet in.”
“Don’t drag your feet!”
For a long time, I hated it when she’d point those things out. She never did it in front others in an embarrassing way, but in my young mind it always felt like harsh and unnecessary criticism. But that’s my mother so I listened obediently.
Feet pointed straight ahead.
Apart from consciously heeding my my mother’s instructions, I subconsciously inherited the rhythm and essence of her gait–the result of watching and walking beside her my entire life.
Now my walk is steady. Fluid. Pointed yet easy.
I carry myself like a young woman who knows who she is and where she’s going, literally and figuratively.
My feet move with certainty, my head held high. Why should it be any other way?
I’ve even been told that my presence is compelling. Draws people in and sets them at ease. Just typing that out feels arrogant. It’s a weird thing to say about oneself, even if I’m just repeating what I’ve been told. And I find it kind of ironic because for as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with being myself at all times.
I like me. I enjoy who I am. But I feel like certain facets of myself should be reserved for certain times and places. So, at any given moment I’m likely considering how to behave based on the present company and situation.
That being said, I never forget the importance of being authentic. There is a way to to be genuine and honest without sharing too much of yourself. This is yet another thing that I picked up from my mother.
I consider it hugely complimentary that someone would speak so highly of my company, but if anyone deserves credit for this aura of mine, I chalk it up yet again to my mama and what I’ve learned just by watching her.
She’s the type of woman who walks into a room and everyone notices. Not just because she’s six feet tall and gorgeous. She’s six foot tall and gorgeous and assured. And it radiates. The brilliant smile doesn’t hurt either.
Her laugh will fill any room right up. Full to the brim. It’s pretty unexpected.
My mother isn’t quiet or reserved by any means. She’s poised and calculated. And although she can be quite personable, her giant unrestrained laugh catches people off guard and everyone nearby can’t help but to laugh along with her. All of us smiling, even if we’ve no clue what’s so funny.
Sometimes I open my mouth to laugh and hear my mother. The tone, the cadence, the size of her laughter all come spilling out and it startles me. Has it always been this way and I’m just noticing?
As time passes, I see just how much she is weaved into who I am. In some places the stitching is intentional and precise. In other places I’m surprised to find her there. Though 900 miles and several states away, my mother is with me wherever I go.
These days I can even see her face in mine. It happens mostly when I’m walking past a shop window or a mirror and catch a quick glimpse of my reflection. I see her near my jawline. The cheekbones. Eyes. And definitely the smile.
I was given a lot as a kid. Spoiled for sure. My upbringing was privileged in that I never wanted for anything and as an only child and grandchild, I always made out like a bandit on birthdays and gift giving holidays.
Pink Barbie dream car. A bike that I didn’t learn how to ride for the longest. A Nokia brick phone, complete with bejeweled rhinestone cover. And even though my first car was a shitty ’87 Corolla that used to belong to my grandfather, my mom and grandma bought me a new Mazda before I started my senior year of high school.
They gave me so much.
As an adult, I recognize that the most valuable things they’ve given me are intangible.
From my grandmother I received a love of words: poetry, reading, writing. She taught me to enjoy learning at a very early age.
My mother has given me an infallible sense of self worth. Even when I question myself and path in life, it never takes too long to regroup and find my center. My resilience, consideration for others, and the unmoving belief that I can do anything are all gifts that were given to me early on and will continue to impact my life every day.
We haven’t spoken in a few months, my mother and I. But we will. I think of her often, especially when it comes to walking.
Many times we’ve laughed together while observing someone whose stride doesn’t quite match their frame. Plenty of times I’ve been without her, seen a person walking and thought, “Mommy would get a kick out of that.”
And sometimes I think of her randomly. On my way to the bus stop or walking back to work after lunch.
Shoulders back. Feet pointed straight ahead. No schlepping.
I’ll hit my stride and think, “I bet I look just like my mom right now.”
A thought that always brings a smile.