An Open Letter To My Mother

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Mama,

Remember in Nagano when I called you just minutes before the long program? I had just finished my 6 minute warm up and I panicked. Suddenly my dream felt too big, too unattainable. I told you to call it off. Remember what you said?

You told me, “Tara, you’ve already made us proud. You don’t have to do another 4 minutes.”

We both know how the story ends, but maybe you never realized how much that moment made a difference. Or all the moments along the way when you chose never to push me but always support me. And by supporting me, you helped me push myself because I knew, win or lose, I was loved.

Of course, it wasn’t easy. You and I both know it was never easy. It’s not like you chose skating. You watched me choose it when I was 4 years old at a roller rink, trying to win a free Care Bear, the one you have framed and call “The Care Bear from Hell.” Don’t worry – I know you mean it with love and humor. Chasing this dream was full time for both of us. You were on the road a lot, away from my dad, making sure I was never alone, keeping me focused on my schooling, and heating up pizza rolls to just the right temperature (not too hot in the center, nice and crispy on the outside). And you were the shoulder I cried on when it all seemed impossible.

You wore the title “Skating Mom” without caring about the perception. You taught me it was much more important what a person thinks of herself. When I wanted to quit or cry, felt lonely or in pain, you turned my obstacles into opportunities. You believed I had the tools in my mind to overcome anything. While my coaches worked to make me physically strong, you made me mentally strong. You taught me to trust my intuition and pursue skating on my terms, even if it wasn’t always the popular way to do things. Because you knew there weren’t always going to be medals or perfect scores and you knew that wasn’t what it was about. Even if I loved skating, even if I was good at it, you knew it wouldn’t mean anything if I didn’t make myself work hard for it and do it my way. The adversity made me better. It made me a competitor. In the end, every bruise was worth it to live this dream.

There is no podium, no gold medal, nothing without you, Mom. We went to the Olympics together and we won together. I may have been a singles skater but I never skated alone. I hope you know that I credit you with every success. I will try and remind you more often.

I will always love skating for letting me grow up so close to you. And it makes me so happy that even now, at 32, you are both my mother and my best friend as we take each new chapter in our lives day by day. You’ve seen me through moves and break ups, losses and career changes. It feels like I don’t even need to call you for you to know when I need you. But I do call you. Every day. Twice.

And you continue to inspire me. After your two recent hip replacements, you were up and walking at week one where the doctor predicted you would be at week four. That has always been you – up and ready to take on the world, no matter the obstacle. That is the lesson I carry with me every day. That is part of why you are my hero.

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This weekend as we celebrate Mother’s Day together, just know that the greatest gift in my life has not been something I ever achieved or worked to possess, but something I was simply given 32 years ago.

Mom, I love you so much.

Your biggest fan,

Tara

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