the glassybaby roots

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mericos rhodes tends to tower over his mother, lee. or, conversely, lee always ends up having to look up to her oldest son. it’s a struggle that i imagine many parents face as their children grow up: you seemingly wake up one day and the children you raised with the most unconditional love are suddenly twice your size. to be sure, your babies are still your babies, but they fool the world by acting, talking, and carrying themselves as men and women.

this is where i found myself: sitting down with mericos to learn his perspective on the glassroots tour. we talked about the constants of the tour: “emails,” he told me, “never cease,” as there are many people involved and an endless amount of “angles to cover.” this is so true for all of us in our own lives that i can almost feel everyone nodding their heads in agreement (if you’re reading this, you’re not emptying your inbox!). also a constant is what mericos called his and izzy’s “creative autonomy” when it comes to the tour. the interviews, the glassroots website, the soon-to-be-painted-and-super-fly van: more angles, more creative opportunity that both he and izzy are very grateful for. put another way, mericos is grateful that he and izzy get to make the tour uniquely their own, while honoring what his mother first started, and connecting with all of you who have helped glassybaby thrive.

but to truly understand what this tour means to mericos, you need to understand what his mother continues to mean to him. those of you who have lived with cancer – either personally, or by way of a loved-one’s diagnosis – understand that the struggle takes every piece of you, and more. for mericos, the oldest of three, his childhood was shaped by his mother’s cancer. his mother’s three diagnoses and her years of treatment shaped his earliest memories, and continued through much of his childhood. in this sense, it goes both ways: parents share in their children’s successes just as much as they hurt during their children’s struggles, and although children express their love differently, they, too, share in their parents’ joys and sorrows. it’s a family bond that often cannot be put into words – a feeling perhaps too strong to be contained on any one page.

but what i learned from mericos is that lee never let her cancer, or even starting a business, keep her from being the most important woman in his life: his mom. “she never cut corners,” he told me as he described how she raised him and his two younger siblings. indeed, growing up, mericos always considered glassybaby to be “mom’s side career.” it wasn’t until she become entrepreneur magazine’s entrepreneur of the year in 2011 when mericos realized just how much glassybaby means to so many people.

and yet, mericos was still involved with glassybaby well before lee began earning recognition and accolades from all over. every glassybaby comes with the glassybaby story, written by 12-year-old mericos:

“a glassybaby is a physically small, colored glass cup, candle holder or vase. but the light of a candle coming through a glassybaby generates more: it gives warmth to a cold day, a calm token of peace in the busy world.”

today, mericos writes the glassybaby color stories, where he told me he aims to “express the essence” of the company, and ultimately the “attitude of my mom: sensitive but not heavy; whimsical, but not too flippant.” a personal favorite of mine is his story for wings:

“‘if you learn how to imagine anything, you can fly without wings,’ the kindergarten teacher said. one of the students cocked his head to the side and asked, ‘like a helicopter?’”

surely, the glassroots tour began well before mericos and izzy log their first mile in their freshly-painted van. it started with a mother and her son, and the love that continues to define who they are as individuals, and who they are together.