Whenever I tell people how old my mother is, they react with astonishment. (Except my friends from Eastern Germany, there, it was normal to have kids before 25.) Today, my mom turns 50.
Having a child early often brings extra difficulties and even if my mom insists that having a child during you university studies is perfect because of the flexibility you have, I believe it was also tough for her. I mean, I was rather occupied just getting my own stuff together during my studies, I don’t know how I would have managed to raise a child. But my mom did. Thanks to my mother, I went on my first Erasmus exchange at the age of 2. Because my mom went to study in England and of course she brought me along. Thanks to her, I still know the nursery rhymes from Coventry.
My mom raised me alone during the most difficult phases of my growing up. She was there to teach me everything (except maths because that wasn’t her strong side either). She was the one fighting over bedtimes with me and discussing at lunch whether a vegetable was edible. She was the one who provided for me by working at an unloved job or daring to start an own, successful, business.
She was the one who instilled a love for language, literature and foreign cultures in me. She was the one who raised me a feminist from day one. My mother was the one who facilitated contact to my grandparents and taught me respect towards the elderly.
As I grew older and started questioning her, she was willing to have that conversation. For the sake of our relationship, she was willing to go to hurtful places.
When I moved abroad, my mom supported me in every possible way. She never asked me to stay closer to her. (Although she did complain about the quality of Skype.) She visited me in Februaries and Novembers, times when no one else wants to come to Sweden. She believed in my choice of studies and encouraged me when I, all too often, entertained doubts. My mother was also the one who proof-read my term papers, who beared with me and my frustration with university work that was articulated as a quarrel with her.
I cannot remember a time, any incident, when my friends were not welcome into my mother’s house. On the contrary, she gladly opened her doors for my friend on Christmas. My friends love my mother because she is witty and smart and when I still lived in a flat share, my friends would flock to the kitchen, “Helen’s mom is visiting!” (I am not making this up.)
My mom is genuinely interested in my life. Her mind is open to whatever I tell her about. Also if I tell her about the same book five times because it fascinates me so, she will listen intently. Recently, she even started picking up some Swedish. Why? Simply because Swedish is important to me. And I am important to her. At the same time, my mother is not a naive mom that loves anything just because. Instead, she is a worthy sparring partner to discuss almost any topic in life. A mother who will ignite a guiding light but hand it over to you.
Today is her 50th birthday and my wish for her is also selfish. I wish for her to have many happy, healthy returns of this day.