Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: The girl who never stops kicking

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Mari Katherine Raftopoulos

I remember reaching a point in the relationship with my parents where we started talking about the real moments in life — from our births to their wedding day, from their younger years to our futures.

For some, these stories might cause embarrassment. But for me, this turning point was one of my favorite parts of growing up. And now, it is what I miss most about growing up.

Every Christmas break that I came home from school and every summer vacation I spent at the ranch, my relationship with my mother grew.

Every moment that we spent together over the past few years, there would be one more secret that she would disclose to me or one more memory she couldn’t wait to tell me. Just that one story or memory could answer 1,000 of my unanswered questions.

And still, there are 1,000 more that I need answered.

The void of my mother is really hitting me — it is like being cut off from your most favorite things, like being told that you can never watch your favorite movie again or even see a preview that you can never eat you favorite meal again or wear your favorite color.

That is what missing my mom feels like. And I have noticed this feeling more with the changing of the seasons, the nearing of the holidays and stability of my new life.

And sometimes, I just want to run — just run away.

Of all the stories that I shared with my mom, there will always be one that continues to stick in my mind.

It happens to fall on the day I was born. On a summer night on Aug. 3, 1988, my mother had me and when recounting this experience, she always said, “Missy, I’ll never forget the moment you were born. You were out so quick, we didn’t even see you. You were kicking your feet so fast, we thought you were going to just take off, hit the road and run.”

My parents always said as I was growing up, from the minute I met the world, my feet never stopped moving. No matter where I was or what I was doing, one part of my body was moving at all times.

And for this reason, I was hard to hold on to. This is the reason I went to San Diego for college, learned Spanish in Spain, moved to Denver, and take weekend trips to Chicago or San Diego.

And 22 years later, this still hasn’t changed. Just when I am settled, I am ready to take off.

For the first time in my life, I can’t run away. To me, this is the hardest part of growing up, especially because I can’t run away to my mother’s arms.

But even if I could, my mom would hold me close and say, “Toughen up, Miss, you will have good and bad days that are life. Just remember that tomorrow is a new day, so do it better than yesterday.”

So even on the days when I want to call her and complain and I can’t, I realize that although she would understand, she wouldn’t tell me to settle or stop.

She would tell me to keep moving and kicking my feet. She would tell me that it doesn’t get easier.

Now, instead of escaping to a foreign country, a beach town or my mother’s arms, I lace up my tennis shoes and hit the road and come back, because tomorrow is a new day full of the new responsibilities of growing up.

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