Peace, Love, and a lot of Loud Rock & Roll
Born in May 1967, pre- “Summer of Love,” I am the child of quintessential hippies. My mother taught me everything I know about being laid-back, peace-loving, and eccentric. My mom, who legally changed her name to Bunee (like a rabbit), named me Sunee (like a sunny day). People used to comment, “Your names are so cute!” when they heard them. As a teen, that comment would always yield a disgusted eye roll from me. Now that my mom has passed, I miss those days.
My mom was a badass. She was our sole provider and worked her way from waitress to a career as a consultant. She never seemed to get discouraged, no matter how difficult life got. Whenever her very used car stopped running, or we had unexpected expenses, such as trips to the emergency room, she found a way to cover the expenses and carry on, whether it meant getting creative with our budget or working a second job. She never complained, she just did what she had to do.
My mom was the first woman I knew with multiple tattoos. She had variations of her zodiac sign, hearts, a butterfly, and several others. Compared to the mothers of my friends she had a quirky sense of style, preferring causal, youthful attire, and she carried herself with a confidence that I envied and admired. She didn’t fit the stereotype of a hippie woman/flower child—she never wore peasant dresses or flowing hemp garments, preferring jeans and t-shirts. She never discussed politics or religion when her views might be challenged, preferring to keep the peace with those around her. She was open-minded and taught me to love people for who they are, not how they might be labeled.
Though life with my mom was always a variety of adventures, a few things remained consistent. Classic rock played loud enough in our apartment to shake the windows and piss off the neighbors. We went to many concerts as a family. At ten years old, I already had an appreciation for seeing live music. We went to more shows than I can count. At home, she blasted classic rock, never enjoying it fully unless it was at maximum volume. It’s no wonder she couldn’t hear well in her last few years. Now, I’ve realized that I, too, listen to my music at an unusually high volume.
My mom always read several books a week, so we frequented the local bookstore throughout my childhood. When she wasn’t working, she could always be found listening to music, smoking a joint, and reading her book. When I was nine I didn’t really like reading. At school, I got in trouble for talking in class repeatedly. Rather than restricting me or giving me additional chores, my mom gave me a book and made me spend an entire Saturday reading. I spent that day side by side with my mom, reading. The book she gave me was a Nancy Drew Mystery, and I found myself completely engrossed in the story. I didn’t want to stop reading, not even for dinner. After that day I spent many afternoons reading alongside Mom, and I haven’t gone more than a day or two without a book to read.
It has been just over two years since my mom passed. I still pick up the phone to call her several times a week. I’ve made many changes in my life over the past year. I’ve gone through quite a bit of growing pains without having her to reason things out with, but she always believed in me and encouraged me so I hold on to that. When I hear myself sound like Mom or I notice how much I look like her in pictures, I realize she will always be with me. Mom and I spoke at least once a day, but I didn’t get to see her as often as I wanted to once she moved to Eugene, Oregon to be with my brother and his family. Her last year was difficult between having COPD and a fracture in her back, so on my last visit, we binged Law and Order and munched on decadent treats from her favorite bakery. We had that week to just talk, laugh, and enjoy one another. As ill as she was, she was still feisty and witty. We talked about everything from spirituality to our favorite books. It was a simple visit, we just hung out. But having the memories of that week reminds me of how truly blessed I was to have had her as a mother. Life with my mom was filled with jokes, laughter, and unconditional love, and it’s that legacy that I try to carry on.
Sunee Lyn Foley is an MFA candidate studying Young Adult Fiction and Playwriting at Antioch University Los Angeles. Her plays have been produced at California State University Dominguez Hills and Redondo Union High School. Several of her plays have toured elementary and middle schools and her play Detox has toured California State universities. Her nonfiction appeared in As We Like It. She currently lives in Torrance, California.