Sharon Randall: How to be somebody

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 8, 2022

By Sharon Randall

Have you ever wanted to be somebody? I mean, other than the somebody that you are?

If we’re honest, most of us might admit there have been times in our lives when we wanted to be richer or smarter, better looking or more loved.

My mother wanted to be all of that. But mostly she want to be Somebody. With a capital “S.”

She was my mother, the biggest Somebody in my life. But even as a child, I knew that being my mother would never be enough to make her happy.

To be happy, she thought she needed to be Somebody — the kind of person people looked up to. Who was always welcomed with open arms. Who spoke her own mind, spent her own money, lived her own life and never “took nothin’ off nobody.”

She longed to be that kind of Somebody. And the longing left a big, aching hole in her heart.

Children often blame themselves for their parents’ unhappiness. I was married with children of my own before I began fitting together all the pieces of my mother’s puzzle.

It’s a big puzzle with lots of pieces I’ll never find, let alone fit them all together as a whole. But here are a few pieces I’ve put in place over the years.

She grew up in the middle of eight sisters, always wanting to be special, but never feeling it at all. She left school at 15, to marry and start a family, certain that marriage and motherhood would make her Somebody.

When it didn’t, she filed for divorce and moved back to her parents’ home with my older sister and me. A year later, she fell in love with someone who made her feel like Somebody. But when she told him she was pregnant with his child, he left her and never looked back.

A year later — six months after my brother was born blind with cerebral palsy — she married a man who took pity on her and her three children, and who would spend more than 40 years — until she died — trying, and failing, to make her happy.

I learned a lot from my mother. How to sing harmony in church or on the porch or in the darkest of times. How to ask for forgiveness, knowing I don’t deserve it. How to walk into an empty kitchen and find the makings for peach cobbler.

But there are two fine things she taught me, not with her words, but with her sorrow: First, no one can make you happy; you have to do that for yourself. And second, people will know you’re Somebody if they can see it in your eyes.

I’m happy to say I’m happy. I’ll take happy over miserable any day. And I am Somebody to the people whose opinions matter most to me: I’m my husband’s wife and partner in life; I’m my children’s mama and biggest fan; and I’m my grandkids’ nana and partner in crime.

Recently, when I showed up at his house with cupcakes, Wiley, who’s 9, looked into my eyes and said, straight-faced, “Nana, you are too good to be true.”

Cupcakes aren’t cheap, but they are priceless.

Years ago, shortly before my mother died, I phoned to tell her that I had won a national award for my column.

“You won what?” she said.

“An award,” I said, “a big one.”

“For what?”

“For my column, Mama. You know that thing I spend hours working on every week?”

“Oh,” she said. “They give awards for stuff like that?”

“Yes, Mama, they do. They even gave me one for mine.”

She was quiet for a moment, as if overcome with emotion, or maybe just taking a bite of her Popsicle. Then she told me something I will never forget.

“Well, honey,” she said, with a grin I heard in her voice, “you’re smart, aren’t you? I guess you really must be somebody!”

“Yes,” I said, laughing, “I’m your daughter.”

And I always will be.

Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or www.sharonrandall.com.

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