During my last semester of undergrad, I spent a semester in Washington D.C.. While I was there I worked for an awesome environmental NGO as part of a college program, The Washington Center (TWC). I had heard about TWC all throughout my undergraduate career as it was very popular among my fellow political science majors. I wasn’t sure if I would get to do it but I was lucky to have the support I needed to make my dream semester a reality.
Going into the semester, I was so excited and anxious to get things started that I practically wished the months preceding the adventure away. I had big plans (none of which accounted for me returning to my home state and getting a masters in the same school I attended as an undergrad). As the time for me to go grew closer I planned and stressed about the future because, well…planning and stressing about the future come second nature to me (I often joke that Ashley without stress is like a dog without a bark).
I was becoming increasingly worried because I couldn’t find a ride to get down to the Capitol. My father had a business trip to India the week of my scheduled departure and I didn’t want to burden my mother as she already had all 5 of my younger siblings to worry about. Every time I thought I’d secured a ride down from one of my classmates, they would tell me that for whatever reason, they couldn’t bring me along. I couldn’t bring my own car because I hadn’t bought a parking pass and I had no idea how I would get down. With days left before the official check-in date (which as luck would have it, fell on my birthday), my mom asked me if she might drive me.
I hadn’t even entertained the idea.
I love my mom but with so much going on at home with all the mini-humans she struggles to keep in line, I have always tried to do things on my own so as not to get in her way. I suppose that isn’t at all unusual for an eldest child (or really any child in a large family). I never wanted to ask for her help because I felt I would burden her unnecessarily or worse, in asking for and receiving her help, I might invite a well-timed guilt trip down the road.
When she told me that she would drive me and in fact, had actually wanted to drive me down and send me off (and wanted me to ask her), I was shocked. For so long I had been under the impression that because she had so many other things to do that she didn’t want me to get in the way. It was/is silly for me to think this way because my mother is one of the most generous, helpful and open people I know. She has a keen sense for detecting people who need help, and without them knowing what they even need, my mom knows how to help them. She has met all kinds of people because she is so honest, open and helpful but even after knowing and even witnessing all that, I hadn’t thought that she might actually want to help me and that while I may see myself as a burden or as someone in her way, that isn’t how she sees me. If only I hadn’t been so self absorbed, I may have seen that she wanted to reconnect with me and maybe she just wanted to be there for me if I needed her.
My mom is always saying that kids grow up too fast. When she says that, I always think of my siblings and how they really are growing up way too quickly for my liking (where does the time go?), but when my mom says that line, I have a hunch she’s thinking of me.
Here I am planning my wedding, flying through graduate school, and preparing to take on the world come December, while she feels like she’s watching from the sidelines remembering when I was just a little peanut. I may have one foot in the future but I can’t wish away the present and in so doing, abandon my past.
My mom did end up driving me down that oh-so-cold January day and she did it with four out of my five siblings in tow. I honestly couldn’t have done it without her, I hadn’t realized how much I needed her during that move. She is such a calm, level-headed person during situations which cause me intense anxiety (aka when things aren’t going according to plan). She made the 4 hour drive to D.C. and back home again for me. I will always be grateful for what she did for me that day and the important lessons I learned.