Being Bold, Dragonflies, and Mom…

I’m into dragonflies–no, I don’t collect dragonfly paraphernalia or have dragonflies all over my house, I just like dragonflies. It’s because of my mother.  She gave me my first dragonfly (a pendant on a silver chain) when my son was born 31 years ago with the caveat that I couldn’t put it on until I was prepared to live a bold life.  What the hell did she mean by “live a bold life”?

My life was fine the way it was, peaceful, quiet, full of the joys of new parenthood, good friends, and a caring spouse. I certainly had no intention of following her path—moving 2,000 miles away without a dime, far from home and family, turning my life upside down, and starting over on the West Coast. And worse, when she brought me the necklace,  she was in the midst of a cross-country RV trip–sort of Travels with Charley without the French poodle and Steinbeck’s way with words. Did she honestly think I was going to leave my new baby and husband and start wandering around the country like a damn gypsy? I put the pendant away, buried it in the bottom of my jewelry case.

It wasn’t until long after she died that I finally began to see what Mom meant about being bold, and I truly believe it was the emotional chaos of menopause that helped me understand. I was and often still am, a restless mess of a woman, needing something and having no idea what it is, wanting change and yet not knowing why or how. Feeling like I’m missing out, but having no idea on what. I started writing again, tucking stories and ideas away in notebooks. I swam to find relief, I buried myself in work, I cried a lot…and I realized something significant.

Mom was right, I wasn’t bold. But she didn’t expect me to do what she did—she simply wanted me to be bold enough to figure who Nan was, to dig deep inside and find Nan’s dreams. I loved being a wife and mother, but for years, I’d wanted to write, to finish a novel. For years, I’d wanted to travel, to see new places and experience new things. Nobody was stopping me from doing those things, I’d chosen to stay close to home, always afraid to step away from the safe and secure nest I’d created. I didn’t believe I could do anything at all on my own—I’d run a household, raised a great kid, started a fairly successful editing business, and yet, I had no faith in grown-up Nan.

But one Thursday morning in 2007, after a long, cleansing cry, I dug in my jewelry case for the velvet box that held Mom’s dragonfly. With a deep breath (and an eye roll for Mom, who I’m sure was looking down and saying “bout fuckin’ time, kid!”), I clasped it around my neck.  The silver pendant was cool against my skin as I got online, picked a B&B in Michigan, made a reservation for one, and headed north. It was the first time I’d driven more than 90 miles all by myself. I spent five days in that B&B on the shore of Lake Michigan, channeling my mother, discovering Nan, and releasing at least some of the fears I’d lived with for so long.

I’ve had Mom’s dragonfly around my neck ever since and in the past four years, I’ve written two novels and have two more in progress. I’ve acquired an agent, built up my editing business, and made a couple of trips to Washington, DC all alone, even mastering the Metro! And I’ve fulfilled a dream I’ve had since I was a little girl—I traveled to Paris and Ireland with my son and daughter-in-law. Yeah, husband sometimes looks a little like a deer caught in headlights, but I think he kinda gets a kick out of his bolder, more grown-up wife. At least, he’s not complaining…

She never got to see me wear her gift, but whenever I see a dragonfly, I know it’s Mom, flying by to say, “Hey, there’s my bold girl! You finally got it!” And I always smile and think, “Well, maybe not completely, but I’m on my way! Thanks, Mom…”