It's hard to believe that it's New Year's Eve already, a sentimental and special holiday that urges us all to stop and reflect on the last year and look towards the future with fervor and excitement for what lies ahead. For me, the last two weeks have been the hardest few days of my life, and I'm filled with more emotions than words can currently describe on this momentous morning.
My sweet mom passed away unexpectedly a few days ago, and this holiday season has hit us hard with plenty of highs and lows, and fond memories of everything she gave me. I haven't been able to sleep more than four or five hours a night since she passed, which leaves me with a lot of morning hours to think and grieve, and often times, cry.
A lot of people have asked me to think about my favorite memory or fondest story I have of my mom, but I can't seem to find enough clarity to put it into words. But given that it's New Year's Eve today (and my mom always loved to celebrate this fun-filled day with us), I thought it was only fitting that I take a moment to put into words how much I will miss her.
In short, my mom gave me everything.
Every strong, redeeming or positive quality I posses as an adult, I owe to her. I firmly believe that a mother wholeheartedly impacts a child's character, personality, integrity and direction in life, and let's just say that my brother and I hit the jackpot with my vivacious, loving and determined mom.
She was our #1 fan, our biggest cheerleader in life, and for the most part she raised us on her own--a true testament to her incredible strong-willed character. My mom was full of life and love and she sprinkled her happiness everywhere she went.
She made friends easily and effortlessly, and was a shining example of someone who put others in front of herself. She was selfless, giving and always loving. She opened up her arms wide and embraced anyone who crossed her path. My 6th grade science teacher once described her as a ball of energy—a firecracker that lit up any room she walked in, and it would be impossible to forget her funny jokes or inherent way to make people feel at ease the minute they met her.
It's no wonder that she has lifelong friendships from college that have stood the test of time over all these years. Her loyalty and compassion to those she cared about will always make a lasting impression to me. She taught me that the most valuable things in life aren’t things—but rather, the companionship of loved ones.
Her friends and family were her world--her whole world--and I believe she passed on that admirable quality to me, leading by example. She embraced all walks of life and poured her heart and soul into her relationships--near and far.
She loved to have fun, she enjoyed a good celebration and most importantly, she loved life.
To her, that meant a life filled with good people, endless laughter and new memories. If someone, anyone, needed help or an ear to listen or a partner in crime to share a meal with, see a show, or take on a new adventure, she would be there.
I've been told more than once that my mom was always the life of the party, and she was constantly mixing and mingling everywhere she went. She also successfully played matchmaker for a number of her girlfriends, earning her a Maid of Honor role in more weddings than she could count. She did everything she could to brighten everyone else’s lives and make others smile—and that was all the reward she ever wanted.
Let's just say I attribute my social butterfly skills to my happy-go-lucky mom.
As a mother, she was constantly enriching our lives with culture and teaching us important values that we’ll never forget. Growing up, Jason and I attentively watched musicals and plays on a regular basis, volunteered like there was no tomorrow and visited every museum or cultural festival she could find on a map.
My mom was a simple woman, she didn't boast or brag, and always kept her two feet firmly planted on the ground--even when I wished she would sometimes indulge in life's luxuries. Despite the fact that her only daughter grew up to be a fashion and beauty editor in New York and LA, my mom never wore an ounce of makeup (unless I coerced into her my makeup chair), and would be content wearing black and white ensembles every day of the year, while I loved nothing more than playing dress up, shopping til I dropped and fantasizing about designer clothes and posh accessories.
To that end, one of my favorite memories of my mom is how she would endlessly embrace and nurture my interests and support my every whim, no matter what. I was a voracious reader as a kid, and there was never a book I couldn't have at the local bookstore or library. I stocked up on piles of books every few weeks, and naturally became a writer with a huge imagination at a very early age.
Given that my mom was a teacher, I'm pretty sure this made her quite proud. When I started racking up awards for stories and poems I penned during elementary school, I made a promise to myself and to her that I would become a writer one day.
My mom was very devoted to us, which also meant she was extremely active throughout our school years as a volunteer, tutor and proud cheerleader/dance team mom to me, and band mom to my brother. She was there for every performance and game, and cheered us on with more school spirit than you could imagine. All of the kids we grew up with knew our mom, as she was regular fixture on campus, enhancing everyone's educational experience for the better. When it came to academics, she motivated us to thrive in our studies and our extracurriculars, to form fast friendships and challenge our strengths and weaknesses--it's no surprise that Jason and I because overachievers without even realizing it.
Growing up, of course I loved fashion with my whole heart, and she and I would spend almost every weekend regularly shopping all of my favorite stores in the Houston Galleria. She was the perfect loyal shopping companion because she gave me her honest opinions, and always had positive feedback every time I emerged from the fitting room. If I had any flaws as a teenager, I never knew it, because my mom poured so much sweet positivity into my self-esteem!
She taught me about patterns and flattering silhouettes from an early age and urged me to always find clothes that made me feel confident and stylish, that were versatile for any occasion. Needless to say, I pay all of these life lessons forward in my career today. Some of my best style secrets I actually learned from my practical mom, and I also quickly sharpened my math skills at a young age when she taught me how to calculate discounts on the fly during a big sale.
My mom was a fun-loving lady, she loved new experiences, travel and was always ready and waiting to join in on the fun, whatever it may be.
I didn't get the chance to say goodbye to my mom, or even tell her half of the things that I am so forever grateful for, but I will always have her memory in my heart.
And I'm certain that tonight, she's got her party hat on and will be toasting the New Year with sparkling apple cider from heaven above.
Love you, Mommy.