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December 26, 2014
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A tribute to my mother

Isabelle Owens

Be born at the end of May in 1961. Grow up in a Polish and Irish Catholic household in Queens. Lose yourself in the strident world of ballet. Wake up at 5 a.m. every morning to practice. Get called a “bun head” at school, and be the tallest girl in your grade. Don’t let it bother you, because you like being a tall bun head. Move to Long Island in high school, lose yourself in the transformative world of acting.

Run away from home when you’re 17. Your parents drive you crazy, and you have auditions to focus on. Live in an apartment on Mott Street with a Rockette; secretly eat her leftover Chinese. Perform in weird, Off-Off Broadway shows where you dance with dead rabbits; perform as a dancing mouse in the Nutcracker. Have a soft spot for small rodents later on in life. Be a lingerie model; be classy about it.

Meet a cool photographer, marry him, make 1980s Manhattan your playground. Get a recurring role on “Guiding Light,” be in a “Saturday Night Live” skit about a clay car, get a write-up in the paper about being the next big thing. Get pregnant and forget all of that. Have a baby Sagittarius girl and during your excruciating three-day labor, be so in awe of childbirth that you decide to become a midwife. Have a baby Taurus girl. Have this one in the waiting room.

Move to a cabin in upstate New York, make fairy altars out of deer jawbones and hawk feathers. Teach your daughters to dance around open flames listening to Native American percussion. Let your daughters be weird; in fact, embrace it unwaveringly. Accept their forms of self-expression; let them wear that sparkly horse T-shirt a fifth day in a row. Don’t let them shave their legs.

In your late 30s, be the first person in your family to go to college. Get into the country’s most difficult nursing program. Graduate Summa Cum Laude. Commute two hours to work at a good hospital in Danbury. Sing “Oklahoma!” to stay awake in the car. See more infant deaths than you signed up for and quit.

Celebrate the dog’s birthday. Be scared of horses. Get your Sagittarius daughter two of them and wake up at 4 a.m. for white-knuckled horse shows. Prefer reading and brie, but go to every single one of your Taurus daughter’s CYO basketball games. Let your two moody, hormonal, horrible teenage girls yell and curse at you; let it bounce right off. Put out a plate of Swiss cheese and water crackers for them after every fight.

Drive your daughters an hour back and forth to private high schools. Laugh when they make up words to stupid Britney Spears songs. Hate the 92.7 radio station, but let them listen to it anyway. On your own time, listen to Edith Piaf and Bob Marley. Listen to them while you clean and burn incense at the same time. Laugh when your daughters both say they burn incense and listen to music when they clean now too.

Have a hard time when they go to college. Get divorced. Have a rough few years because you’ve forgotten how to live independently. Like, have a really, truly rough few years. Lean on friends too hard, lose a few along the way. Lean on one daughter too hard, lose another daughter along the way. Continue to reach out to them; always have the space you live in ready for holidays and home-cooked dinners. Be weak—be human. Battle alcoholism and ultimately lose. Know that the memories you left and early foundation you set ensure your daughters will love you no matter what. Leave behind a canyon of good and bad. Be loved endlessly and rest easy.