my darling girl

Holly Williams | NHSMTC | Chef Gretchen Hanson

I wrote this piece when Holly tried out for Mock Trial her freshman year. She is still, and will always be, my darling girl. It seems apropos given today is the first day of her senior year to post it. I could not be more proud of this beautiful young woman and everything she stands for. She has so much to teach me and the world. I cannot wait to see what her next chapter holds.

Recetas de mi Madre

I am in Mexico with Michael. We have snuck away for a much needed post-season vacation. We couldn’t take the girls this year, since Holly is in her first year of the International Baccalaureate program, and it didn’t seem fair to take only Hadyn.  Holly had Mock Trial tryouts the first day we are gone. I am nervous about how she did and called to check on her.

“I rocked it.”


“Yes, I completely rocked it. But the girl that was standing against me didn’t.”

“What happened?”

“She broke down crying and couldn’t complete the exercise.”

“What did you do?”

“I went to the bathroom to see how she was.”

“Did she make the team?”

“I don’t know, but it didn’t really matter right then, because she was so upset.”


“I told her that she wouldn’t remember what happened today in five years. I told her that today was just a blip in the radar and what really mattered came later.”

“What did she say to that?”

“That she couldn’t see past today’s failure. I told her in the grand scheme of things today was just an insignificant moment to learn from and that she would be fine even if she didn’t make it. She was angry and fought with me.”

“And what did you do?”

“I told her that it would all be ok. She could be angry with me, and that was ok too.”

“How did you know that?”

“I know because that’s what you always tell me. The really funny thing was as I was getting ready for mock trial tryout in the library, I looked up and you were on TV. Your face was looking down on me. You were demoing salsas.”

They have TV’s in the library?”

“Yes, Momma, they have TVs, *sigh.* but that is when I knew.”

“Knew what?”

“That it was going to be ok, exactly like you had always told me. That you were watching out for me exactly like you always said. And then I was at peace with the outcome.”

“You knew that?”

“Yes I knew. I knew at that minute, that I was going to succeed.”

“How did you get so smart?”

And she pauses and says, “Because you made me that way, Momma.”

And then, in a rush, I just knew it too. I just knew that everything I am and ever will be is made up of the people who are in my life, now and in the past. That the most important teacher always and would ever be my own mother. I am who I am, the sum of all parts, good and bad, a composite of how she made me, both in the womb and outside of it. My love of food and art and Shakespeare and opera and Mexico, all those were given by her. My fierce independence and passion and resilience and intelligence; all those are her gifts as well. I have focused on how we were adversaries, and how she had hurt me without examining the gifts she gave me even while teaching through negatives. Those lessons which allowed me to triumph over the same adversities she faced during her own childhood of abuse and neglect.

We may not have had the relationship I wanted, but we had the relationship I needed. Without her actions, I never would have become a chef, or followed the path that led me to here to this moment right now. Without her teaching me how not to be a mother I may not have become the mother that I am. And just like that, the key tumbles in the lock, and I realize that I have forgiven her for anything I ever thought she had done or said that was hurtful or destructive. My whole life has been one long lesson to get to this place of peace. This place; right here and right now, and in just one instant, the decades of anger completely vanish. I know that I can be the chef and person who I was meant to be. I know right in that moment, that I am going to succeed, and that everything is going to be ok in the end no matter how long it takes.

And it took my teenage year old daughter to teach me that.



I love you Holly Hanson. You are my masterpiece.



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