Happy Birthday to my parents. Yes, Momma and Dad were born on the same day. Three years apart and that didn’t matter because it might as well have been the same day for the intense level of Virgo perfectionism thrown at me growing up. Not a judgement just a fact and today I’m grateful for it because it made me tough. That all you got baby? Cause I had two Virgo parents born on the same day. Boom.

I took this picture when I was 10 or 11 or 12, and so many years later that part of that decade feels like something I read about once. Real in my head but fake on paper and everywhere else. It was one of the few times I saw intimacy between my parents who always put up a strong, emotionless front during hard times unless you count the shouting, the yelling, and the name calling. Again, not a criticism just a fact and I couldn’t have written a memoir without it. Which yes, makes me damn grateful.

Momma had just finished her first marathon, although it might have been her second or third, but this is the only photo I have so nostalgia dictates it should be the first and worthy of record. It’s not a great pic, but I do love the care in Dad’s face and the look of actual weakness and relief in Momma’s which I don’t recall seeing much until after. An after too complex to go into detail here, so buy the book if you want to read about a badass lady’s extraordinary tale of survival.

For years I’d arrive at school to friends and teachers calling out, “Hey, I saw your mom on the road this morning!” or “Was that your Mom I saw on Woodman Road? Is she a runner?” Questions and queries thrown when all I wanted to do was escape to homeroom to hide, and yes, my Momma was a runner and yes, she embarrassed the hell out of me by traipsing all up and down our neighborhood streets getting miles under her belt while the school bus passed and kids hooted and hollered.

Momma had a unique way, her run more of a walk mixed with some hops and steps. She was going to move forward, it just didn’t look that way. That kind of a run. Like she was struggling up a hill even when the way was flatter than Flat Stanley. That embarrassed me too. It was horrible enough she was running and people knew. Why did she have to do it badly? Why couldn’t she look like a gazelle instead of a limping turtle?

Now in another century I walk every morning. Cars pass me leaving and arriving and I wonder what they are thinking. Some of them roll down their windows and tell me which is disgusting but instead of running away like I used to, now I stare daggers while not even breaking stride. I wonder if Momma had to do the same. I wonder how many times she had to do that, how many advances she had to fend off as she gathered those miles like flowers, as she felt her legs strengthening, getting stronger, longer, and just fast enough to finally take her away from this place. Away from this marriage and this life.

I wonder if that is what she was thinking when this picture was taken. One marathon down, how many more to go? Is it time to leave yet or do I need more training? Right now, I need to lean on this man. Will I ever be strong enough to cross the finish line on my own? Without help? Will I?

I think about it all and I walk. Sometimes I sing very loudly. I swing my arms and stretch them upward and out, taking up as much space on this road as I can. I think about family and choices and connections and how we are all so very different but still so much the same. My mother ran away from us and drank because we treated her like shit. Then I drank and ran away in all the ways you can because she ran her car headfirst into a tree. All the choices we make and the ramifications and how moments and people can be mirrors which turn into schools.

Happy Birthday Momma and Dad. Happy Birthday.

A few pieces of administrative bullshit: