Good Things: Melanie McKenna

In anticipation of Mother’s Day on Sunday, I wanted to dedicate this week’s Good Things to my mom, Melanie McKenna.

I have a lot of fond memories from my childhood. A lot are with my mom. My mom would make up “Billy & Sally” stories on the spot whenever I asked her to – about a brother and sister who went on random adventures. I have a vivid memory of being young and sick with the flu. She sat with me and rubbed my stomach, and told me to think of my favorite word – which was (and still is) “emphasize.” She told me to repeat it over and over in my head. It calmed me down, and it’s a trick I still use to this day. She was always trying to expand my interests and activities – I was enrolled in gymnastics (I sucked), tap dancing (I sucked), soccer (I sucked), Little League & softball (I was awesome), basketball (I sucked a little), and swim team (I sucked a little, but loved it). I had violin lessons and I think I even took a calligraphy course. Anything I showed even a glimmer of interest in, I was allowed to try. This gave me a confidence to try new things that has stayed with me into my adult life. It also made it really easy for me to make friends – especially after my mom found a summer camp in northern New Hampshire. It became a HUGE part of my life. I went every summer for ten years and it’s something I will be eternally grateful to her for.

I remember something from when I was young, probably around six or seven years old. My mom and I were in the kitchen. She was ironing and I was eating dinner, and she looked at me and said “Promise me you will never be one of those teenage girls who are mean to their mothers.” “I will NEVER be like that,” I said.

Oh, but I was. I was an asshole. My mom and I had some rocky times when I was growing up, pretty common in mother-daughter relationships.┬áLike most middle-schoolers are, I was bullied at school. I didn’t have many friends, and the ones I did have were not good people. I would come home crying most days, and instead of confiding in my parents about how I was feeling, I lashed out at them. Especially my mother. I shut myself in my room for the majority of the time.

In high school, things changed. I wasn’t bullied anymore, I had a lot of friends, and I was very happy. My relationship with my mother improved a little, but I was still a teenager. I didn’t feel like I was getting as much freedom as my brother had gotten when he was in high school. I had a ridiculously early curfew, and wasn’t allowed to do some of the things my friends were allowed to do. Wah, wah, wah. In the back of my mind, I knew I could always turn to her if something were to go awry. I trusted Mel. Still do. And looking back, I know that everything she did, she genuinely had my best interest at heart.

Things really shifted when I went away to college. Something happened in the beginning of my freshman year that knocked the wind out of my sails, and I really needed my mom. After a minor nervous breakdown, I called my parent’s house really late at night. I talked to her for a long time, and when I hung up, it hit me that even after all the nasty things I had said and done to her during my punk-adolescent phase, my mom was the one person who would always be there for me. Forget friends, boyfriends and roommates. They come and go. Your mother is forever, even long after she’s gone and you are old and gray. I can feel myself becoming more and more like my mom with each passing year, and that’s something I’m really happy about.

My relationship with my mother now is a good one. It’s natural, and comfortable. If I have a question – anything from interior decorating to crock-pot recipes to serious things – I call my mom first, and I know I’ll get an honest answer. No sugarcoating. I’m planning my wedding right now and I don’t know what I would do without her.

My mother taught me to protect myself. Being instantly open and trusting with everyone you meet (as I tend to be sometimes) isn’t wise. She taught me to stand up for myself, and not to bother with people who don’t bother with you. My mother has a very kind heart. I hope that is something we share.

I think the most important thing I’ve learned from my mom is that you should always write a thank you note. This lesson goes beyond writing a short blurb when someone gives you a present. It’s about being grateful for what you have, and showing gratitude to the people who take time out of their day to do something (anything) for you. It’s about not being selfish or greedy. It’s about knowing that the world doesn’t revolve around you.

I know some people aren’t able to say these things about their mothers. I’m so blessed to be confident in the fact that my mother would do anything for me. I hope she knows that I would do anything for her.

So Mom, thank you for everything you’ve sacrificed, and everything you’ve given me. You and Dad have shown me what a good marriage is, and now I’m marrying a wonderful man. And because of you, Mel – I can’t wait to be a mom. I can only hope I’m half the mother to my children as you are to me. I love you, so much.

I know you were on my side even when I was wrong, and I love you for giving me your eyes, for staying back and watching me shine. I didn’t know if you knew, so I’m taking this chance to say…that I had the best day with you today.

Happy Mother’s Day

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4 thoughts on “Good Things: Melanie McKenna

  1. crying over my morning coffee…well done Molly! I’m sure your mom AND DAD shed some tears too!

  2. I love what you said about your mom teaching you to write thank you notes and be grateful… I work with teens and it really is a gift to have parents who teach you those kinds of things that help you become a good person. Hope you’re well!

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