I have a strange name, fat face and crooked smile. Thanks Mom.


When I was 8 years old, I told my mother I didn’t want to have kids, ever. When I was 15, I told her I was never getting married because I was going to do things my way. At 21, I told my mother that I completely understood what Joni Mitchell meant when she sang, “You love him, a lot like you love your freedom.”

From Mother, there was never an eye roll. Never, ever, a “Wait until you get older.” Instead, she would say just enough to leave me feeling that she understood. The words she did share led me to believe that she knew where I was coming from, yet there would be no questions asked if we revisited these conversations years later, and I did a 180 degree turn.

I had an enormous amount of freedom in the way I grew up. While a few people (friends, lovers, etc.) sneered that I could have used more structure, it was empowering. I really felt that I held all the cards to make my own choices, to shift gears, to succeed, to fail. To do anything.

My mother has a fascinating story, one that deserves to be told. I have no doubt when she is ready, she will, or perhaps we will.

Here’s what I will tell you. She married young and was a mother of two by the time she was 24. A hairdresser, then stay-at-home mom turned bank vice president by day and cabaret singer by night. The fondest memories of my mom bring me to her coming home, shedding her pantsuit and pumps, and putting on her halter dress and stilettos (it was the ’70s, mind you) to get to her gig. Clark Kent in the phone booth comes to mind.

I never felt sad she couldn’t be around; I was inspired. In today’s vernacular, it was more “You go girl!” From the sidelines, I cheered her on.

She’s been my cheerleader ever since.

I was always different. I was happier alone, really book smart, highly opinionated, maybe a bit of a snob. I could gain weight quickly. I never thought I was ugly, but I always thought I was kind of different looking with a fattish face, big teeth and crooked smile.

She, of course, knew all of this. We didn’t talk about it. But she showed me that embracing all of it, your true self, is the best gift you could ever give yourself. It liberates you and everyone around you to embrace your uniqueness.
“Better to be unforgettable and to leave a mark than just be some pretty girl,” Mom would say. “They are a dime a dozen. They get old.”

I suppose it all started when she named me Dayla. Nearly every day someone compliments me on my name. It was my first mark.
It surprises me now just how much I am the sum of those life lessons. Some she willingly taught me; some I learned peering around corners and eavesdropping on conversations.

However, what I find the most surprising is that I’ve never taken a minute to tell her any of this. So here it is. Thanks, Mom … for everything.

Happy Mother’s Day,

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