When you find out your mom was cool

I guess, when my relatives died, they thought it was a great idea to bequeath (I’ve always wanted to use this word, btw) their photos to me. In my garage, I have about 10 huge plastic bins chock full of family photos.

The bins have been around for decades. They’ve moved with me everywhere and have been stacked in many different garages and basements throughout the years. They’ve accumulated layers of dust and are cracking and caving in from the extreme high desert weather we have out here.

We’re moving across the country soon. I want to get as much of the packing done as I can before the sweltering heat of the summer rolls in. So the other day, I went and bought new plastic bins to transfer these photos into.

It’s been tedious. But I’ve stumbled on some incredible mementos.

In particular, I found a stack of photos of my late mom when she was in her early 20’s. See, my mom passed when I was 16. We were very close. Shortly before she died, she revealed to me that she was previously married. For my entire life up to that point, I had no idea. For whatever reason, my parents decided to keep this a secret.

I wasn’t hurt or offended when I found out. I was just kinda thrown off balance, if you will. It was like, whuh? But she just casually mentioned it, let me process it for a minute, and then dropped the subject.

I didn’t pry further, but something inside wanted to know more about that time of my mom’s life. It was like the first 30 years of Jesus. Who was this guy when he was younger?

Anyhow, here I am 20 years later, and I stumble on this stack of photos with my mom and her ex-husband. It was like opening and reading a chapter of my life that I’d skipped over before. Something in my psyche felt relieved by getting this kind of closure. What’s really interesting is, I discovered something that was undoubtedly clear…

My mom was cool AF.

Seriously. My wife and I looked at these photos and were like, WOW. She was super stylish. It blew me away because, in all honesty, my mom was sick for much of the part of my life that I remember with her. She had a long, brutal bout with cancer.

But in these photos, she was carefree. Youthful. In one photo, she’s hanging out at a campground with a sidearm. But it wasn’t like a rugged Janis Joplin kind of vibe. It was like seeing Audrey Hepburn in casual clothes with a gun on her hip. So cool.

There was another one where she’s leaning on the hood of a VW bug with a huge smile on her face.

And one where she’s hanging out in her apartment with a football jersey on.

It’s interesting to think about your parents before you came around.

These are just people who had their own lives. They had aspirations. Big dreams. Maybe you were included in those dreams, but maybe not. Who knows.

But soon, you came into the picture. And they changed. Maybe not so much on the surface, but inside, something eternally shifted. They became parents. A mom took the place of a young woman. The VW bug got replaced by a car to fit your diapered ass into more easily. And everything else that comes when a human baby shows up in the world.

My mom was cool. And healthy. And vibrant. And free. Her name was Kathleen. Rory has adopted it as her middle name.

I miss her every day. And now I feel closer to her than ever.

Happy mother’s day.


Jonas writes shortish preachments and meditations on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.