Inspired by the MDF posts Letting Go and Relationship Reminders, friend and follower Kim McCoy writes from Sweden about how she and her mom created a beautiful and lasting memory that connects them even though they’re oceans apart:

The oak chest stands in our bedroom. Like any other bureau, it contains the miscellaneous receipts, loose keys, scribbled-in notepads and screws that always seem to accumulate by themselves, their original purpose forgotten, but never enough to discard them.

In the top right drawer I keep my American and Swedish passports and collect the coins from my boyfriend’s work travels and our personal adventures—reminders of the places we’ve been and to where we’ll someday return.

Six years ago, I moved from New Jersey to Sweden to start a life in a foreign country with the man I met nine years ago at a hostel in Durban, South Africa. Needless to say, travel has been and continues to be a significant part of my adult life.

Luckily my family has always been supportive, especially my mom. When I was 15 she bought me a set of luggage for my birthday and told me that I should travel the world. While I find a good backpack more suitable to my adventures, her message remains the same. It was permission to forge my own path, to let go of the physical closeness that so many mothers and daughters, including my older sister, enjoy on a more frequent basis.

The distance separating us has a way of establishing its permanence with the events and demands of our own lives: Last year my boyfriend and I bought a house; my mom busy with her business and the doting grandmother to my sister’s three children. Our phone calls now stretch to every week or two, our visits to once a year.

My mom is a worker. Our time together is rarely relaxing over an afternoon coffee or lounging by the beach near her home in Tampa. No matter who’s visiting whom, we work. During the weeks she visited last summer to help us settle into our new home, the projects unfolded before us—unpacking, cleaning, painting, and cooking. The bureau sitting in the shed covered in black paint– rusty screws stubbornly holding the doors and handles in place and children’s wrapping paper adorning the shelves– was supposed to be a “when-I-get-around-to-it” project—a forgotten object the former owners felt relieved not to have to move with them. But during my mom’s visit, she wordlessly added restoring that abandoned chest to our expanding project list.

She was determined: That black paint wouldn’t budge. After each treatment, she was dissatisfied. I kept telling her it was fine. What was supposed to be an easy, casual restoration was turning into a week-long undertaking. Maybe this bureau was a lost cause, better off left holding old paint cans and collecting cobwebs in the corner of the shed. But every morning, before I was out of bed, the electric sander whirred. Three home improvement stores, multiple paint removers, putty knifes and countless steel wool boxes later, the oak veneer began to peek through.

We took turns sanding, arms tired—that black paint unyielding. She fought with that chest, chastising and cajoling it to take the form she imagined. At first I didn’t understand why. We had plenty to do. I didn’t mean for her to slave away for week on a piece of old furniture that no one wanted. We were supposed to spend “quality time” together during these rare visits.


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as the layers of paint came off, it was transformed. We put new fixtures on the drawers and double doors and carefully oiled every inch before moving it inside to our bedroom. It earned a place in our new home. I suddenly realized how important that was for my mom, and what it meant for us both.


There’s an ocean that separates us. And while FaceTime and Skype make that ocean feel a little smaller, this bureau, holding its insignificant contents, a heavy piece of furniture I walk by every morning and night, held something more enduring. It has a story, a new meaning worked into it by my mom and me. It serves as a reminder and a memory.

So every now and then I run my hand over the smooth surface of that oak chest that stands in the bedroom. I pause at those drawers, satisfied with feeling the sturdiness of its wood under my hands and think of my mom, knowing she’s here.

Do you have a mother-daughter story you want to share with the MDF Community? Send it to us at ellenandjenna@motherdaughterfriend.com!