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For my mom

Patricia TorvaldsA few weeks ago, I was on my morning drive to Portland State University with my mom in the passenger seat. She always drives with me to PSU so that we don’t have to pay for parking during the day. That morning, she took my hand as I turned past Market of Choice.

“I can’t believe you’re going to be a senior,” she said.

“I can,” I laughed. “Finally.”

“I remember the first day of freshman year. You were so little ... and so scared,” she said, smiling a little. “You were shaking like a leaf, so scared to go to high school. And right after that terrible eighth-grade year.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “But it turned out really well.”

“Sophie was so scared, too,” my mom said thoughtfully, refering to one of my most confident classmates. I laughed again.

“How do you know that?” I asked.

“I could tell when I saw her walking up the stairs. She was so tense. And now you’re both going into your senior year.”

I looked over to see my mom start to cry and couldn’t stop my own tears, inexplicable and torrential. I drove down Terwilliger Boulevard, laughing and sobbing with my mom. “Oh my God, cut it out! I’m driving!” I protested, tears still spilling down my cheeks.

“My baby,” my mom laughed through the tears. “I love you.”

“I love you too, mom.”

My relationship with my mom is at times as insane and tumultuous as that car ride. We have fights that put reality TV to shame and bouts of hysterical laughter in the same day. We reminisce one moment and discuss college the next. When I was younger, I thought our differences were impossibly large; that it would be better if I loved her from afar, and that I’d end up being the daughter nobody can believe is related. Now it’s so clear that I’ll be lucky to grow up to be half the woman she is, and that I’d be heartbroken if I didn’t talk to her as frequently as I could.

My mom is impossibly patient and yet willing to stand up for herself and for her daughters in a heartbeat, willing to listen to all my rants about friends and high school but not to anyone’s gossip. She is powerful and dedicated to Tae Kwon Do and to her children’s futures, and everything in between.

My mom is the happiest stay-at-home mom I’ve ever known, and the woman who taught me to be a feminist before I had ever heard the word. When a girl at my eighth-grade graduation told me I “looked like a president’s wife” on stage, my mom pulled me aside and hissed, “You looked like a president.” She taught me I was nobody’s “other half”; I am my own whole. And yet when I insisted on doing a pageant with one of my best friends, my mom smiled and helped me every step of the way. And when I cried in the car holding my tiny “2nd runner-up” crown, she reminded me that I had more important attributes than my smile and stage presence.

And she drives me crazy. She’s the worst driver’s ed instructor I’ve ever had. I can’t count the number of times I’ve shrieked, “You just don’t understand me!” after a long argument about boyfriends, weekend plans, applications, driving or any other number of topics. Sometimes, horror of horrors, she makes her way downstairs to my room in the basement and attempts to initiate conversation with me when I’m trying to do something else, or am tired, or am lying on my bed staring at the ceiling. It’s rough being a teen.

Yesterday, we were driving home from PSU, this time with me in the passenger seat. She stopped the car just before turning into our driveway.

“I’m so proud of you, Patricia. Of everything you do.”

“Thanks, mamma.”

“Don’t stress yourself too much about making me proud, though. I’m always proud of you. No matter what.”

“I know,” I whispered.

I love you, mamma.

Patricia Torvalds is a senior at Riverdale High School, and she writes a regular column for The Review. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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