Not a Mom, but a Proud Daughter

The first day I went on an assignment in Dallas, I was mistaken for a high schooler. Three weeks later, I was mistaken for a mom.

“Hi, welcome! Are you a mom?” a woman with a long blonde pony tail asked me Thursday night.

“Oh no, I’m just here for the ‘Girls’ Night Out,’ pottery event,” I said.

I had signed up for the event a couple of weeks earlier, not knowing that on this particular night a local mom who started a new Web site for mothers was throwing a promotional party for the site. Moms were everywhere — pregnant moms, new moms, moms and their daughters. The irony of being a motherless daughter at an event catered toward mothers and daughters engulfed me. But I tried my best to swim with the tide.

I’m captivated by the idea of motherhood and the ways that mother-daughter relationships shape a woman’s life, so I naturally gravitated toward the maternal figures in the room. As I half-laughed while listening to the Michael Buble CD playing in the background, I overheard conversations that went something like this:

“I’m due next Wednesday. I can’t believe it.”

“Girl, you look good for being due in a week!”

….

“My youngest one keeps throwing tantrums. Is that normal? When is she going to stop?”

“Oh yeah. My daughter threw them a lot when she was your daughter’s age. She’ll outgrow it.”

“Mom, which colors do you think I should pick?”

“Ooo, look at this periwinkle blue. It would match your room.”

Conversations I look forward to someday having, or that I once had and desperately miss.

Painting pottery never felt so therapeutic. Brush stroke after brush stroke, I thought about my mom and how she probably would have looked in the paper and found out about the mother-daughter themed “Girls’ Night Out.” Mom always looked in the paper for yard sales and free events. Circle after circle, she’d mark them with her big yellow highlighter and plan our weekend of fun, day by day.

I wondered what she would have painted at the pottery place, what she would have thought of the periwinkle, lilac and sea-foam green color scheme I had chosen. One of the moms near me wondered what I was painting. She peered over my shoulder, told me she liked my floral design, and said it seemed as though I must paint a lot. Far from it. Comforted by her compliment, I finished painting and left.

When I came home, there was a package on my bed from someone who I look to as a maternal figure. Inside was a necklace with the message “We all shine differently” etched into it, and a handwritten note reminding me that I am “loved and missed.” It couldn’t have been a better time to receive such a special present. For me, the gift was reminder enough that no matter how much we lose in life, there’s much to be gained.

I’m not a high schooler or a mom. But I am a proud daughter, and always will be.

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Poynter.org. Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at mjtenore@gmail.com.

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