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A Few Surprising Things I’ve Learned Traveling With My Mother

Laurie with her mother

Laurie (r) with her mother, Marilyn

By Laurie Stone

Let’s face it. The thought of getting older is scary. Being in my 60s feels surreal, especially since I know I was only 30 last week. But there’s one person that always inspires me, leading the way through the dense, thorny thicket of the later years. And that’s my 80-something-year-old mom, Marilyn.

Here are five ways she’s surprised me lately…

She’s game.  Since she was widowed two years ago, Mom and I have traveled many places together, including Ireland, Florida, the Kripalu Yoga Center in Stockbridge, Mass., and recently, Amherst, to see the Emily Dickinson museum. As I’ve learned, you don’t really know people (even parents) until you travel with them.

It is during these trips that I see how game and adventurous my fit, silver-haired mother is. She’s up for any trek, whether walking the cobbled streets of Dublin or attending a new-age lecture in the Berkshires.

She’s feisty. Last summer, we flew to Ireland. My mother, like many of us, doesn’t like long, overseas flights. That didn’t stop her. Once there, we took a one-week bus tour around the country. The mornings started early. There were three different motels in six days.

I was proud of Mom, up bright and early for breakfast each morning. We took a horse-drawn carriage through Killarney, a boat trip off the Dingle Peninsula and walked the Cliffs of Moher. The pace was fast, but she kept up.

On our last day, we ended up in a Galway pub. It’s there that we had our first Irish coffees together, a habit we brought back to the states. “I’ll have mine with Jamieson (whiskey),” she told the waiter. I looked at her, eyebrows raised. I had no idea my mother got this specific about her Irish coffee. It was then that I realized people never stop surprising us.

Laurie with her mother, Marilyn

She’s enlightened. There we were this spring, lying on our mats in the famous Kripalu Yoga Center in Stockbridge, Mass. New age music lilted from speakers in this huge, sun-filled room. An older woman in a long flowing dress walked among us like a high priestess, calling out moves. “Breathe and be present,” she intoned.

And there among the bodies was my Mom, performing downward dog and spinal twist. She’s been doing yoga a long time and it shows in her toned, shapely body. Damn, I thought to myself as I watched her settle into cobra pose, my mother’s cool.

She’s still good company. In Vero Beach, Fla., this past spring, we visited my aunt Ann. It was lovely to spend time with two of my favorite women. Each morning we’d do our own thing. Mine was reading. Ann would catch up on her favorite television shows. My mother loved poring over her iPad, getting the news of the world. Unlike many people of her generation, she has no fear of technology.

One night Mom, Ann, and I sat in a seaside restaurant, looking out at palm trees and blue-green ocean. As they talked, I watched them both, thinking what wonderful role models they are. My mother and aunt are still curious about the world. They have huge groups of friends. They’re kind and open and engaged. They’re youthful. I couldn’t help think how lucky I am to have them. How lucky I am to share these times with my mother.

She’s still fun. In Amherst this spring, we visited the original home of 19th century poet Emily Dickinson. (It’s now a museum and highly recommended for you literary types). That evening, Mom and I went out for dinner. She’s now got me drinking beer, something I never did before since I’m a wine girl.

As always, we talk about everything. She’s deeply involved with her children, grandchildren, and extended family. I look at her and can’t help but think how the later years are what we make of them. Yes, genes and health play a huge factor, but so does attitude.

Since my beloved dad passed two years ago, my mother’s had to reinvent herself. She’s had to navigate life on her own terms, for the first time after a very close 60-year marriage.

I cherish the time I spend traveling with her. I know women who have had abusive or neglectful mothers. I know other women who were close to their moms and have lost them.

As we sat together our last night in Amherst, I realized how nice it is to have a mom you not only love, but like. I thought of how my own journey has always been made easier by her example. Yes, even in the thorny thicket of later years.

I raised my beer.  “Cheers.”

She raised hers in return and smiled. “Here’s to our next adventure.”

Laurie Stone writes from the woods of Easton, Conn. Her blog, Musings, Rants &Scribbles,” shares thoughts on growing up, older and (hopefully) wiser. Follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

5 Responses to “A Few Surprising Things I’ve Learned Traveling With My Mother”

  1. Diane says:

    I SO admire your mother!
    Isn’t it wonderful when we get to the point when our roles of ‘Mother’ and ‘daughter’ no longer define us. Now we’re first and always ‘Best Friends’! I, sadly, lost my mother just on the cusp of that transition. But I was able to have it with my dad!

  2. Jennifer says:

    I want to grow up to be just like your mom!

  3. Lauren says:

    I love this! I love traveling with my mother.

  4. What a beautiful time you shared with your Mother, Laurie. She certainly is an inspiration and shows that she is embracing life with an ageless attitude. x

  5. Carol says:

    How lucky you are to be able to do that. And how cool she is!

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