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Published May 11, 2013, 11:32 PM

Coming Home: Imagining mom before she was Mom

I like to imagine my mother before I knew her, before she became a mom to my big sister and wife to my father. I like to imagine her with long, straight hair, jeans hugging her ballerina legs, high heels clicking along the pavement and her tan, elegant arms that opened out wide to the world.

By: Jessie Veeder, INFORUM

I like to imagine my mother before I knew her, before she became a mom to my big sister and wife to my father.

I like to imagine her with long, straight hair, jeans hugging her ballerina legs, high heels clicking along the pavement and her tan, elegant arms that opened out wide to the world.

Because it was those open arms that brought me into my world – a world with gravel roads and cattle grazing in the yard.

A world I’m certain this beauty queen who used to dance under the lights of big stages never pictured herself living in.

But I like to imagine her there, young and in love and willing to sacrifice her familiar life between city streets for a man in a band with wild, black hair wearing a suit with cowboy boots and looking displaced in that city, ready to bust at the polyester seams, saddle his horse and ride out on the interstate toward home.

And so I imagine him, my father before he was my father, enamored by this woman with quiet confidence, natural beauty and an aversion to practical shoes. A woman who was fine on her own, but might be convinced, if treated with the kindness and respect she deserved, to go with him to live in this wild space that has always been a bit under appreciative of a woman so refined and poised.

A space that required more practical shoes.

I like to picture her pulling on her boots and listening to her new husband’s dreams of cattle and horses while she searched for work, taught dance classes in the nearby small town, had two more daughters, and under that big blue sky, watched those daughters grow, get their hands dirty and tangle their fuzzy hair in the wind.

She cheered them on at small-town rodeos, tended to broken arms, made makeshift habitats for pet turtles in her roasting pan, gave advice on cheerleading moves, helped with 4-H projects and bought them pretty shoes, no matter the dirt and mud they insisted on dragging into the house on their boots.

And while she drove one with ballerina aspirations to lessons 75 miles away, sent one to ride horses and sing her songs on stage and scheduled the other for basketball and volleyball camps around the state, I imagine her grabbing little pieces of her heart and handing them quietly off to her daughters:

Her pointed toes, blue eyes, poise and gentle nature she slipped to her oldest in a mug filled with hot chocolate on her way out the door.

The honesty, determination, quick wit, strength and social graces that exist within my mother flew out of her mouth and attached to her youngest during an argument about boyfriends, clothes or parties with friends.

And to her middle daughter, a daughter who in her younger days was convinced she had nothing in common with the woman who gave birth to her, she gave a gift of tenderness, encouragement, belief in wild dreams and understanding of untamed emotions. But most of all her sacrifice and acceptance of a world she had to grow to understand and appreciate has been her greatest gift to me.

That, and a fondness for impractical shoes.

But for all that she’s given, my mother has held on to the best parts of herself:

The beauty queen parts, the graceful selfless parts, the life of the party, fashionista, giver of the most thoughtful gifts, sun seeker, best friend, best sister, caring daughter and understanding wife parts. The organized and always prepared (even 30 miles away from the nearest grocery store) parts.

The parts of her that have always known what’s best for her family.

So, yes, I like to imagine my mother before I knew her. I like to imagine her with all of that love to give, all of those dreams and talents and the world at her delicate fingertips.

Because all the things and people this woman could have belonged to, all of the places she could have laid her heart down, she chose to lay it here.

She chose us.

And we are the luckiest.

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.

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