There are several people who I write about, about whom I can never write clearly enough. I can never make the words significant enough, good enough, strong enough to convey my deep emotion towards them. I try and try to write things that come close to expressing what is in my heart for them, but the words are never full enough. My mom is the first person I ever loved and the words fall short every time.
But. I think sometimes we need to say the things we can’t say perfectly yet. Because maybe we will never say them perfectly enough. But they still need to be said and heard. So mom, happy mother’s day. I tried to make it beautiful, and I fell short of what I hoped I could put into words. But I have a feeling you will love me anyway.
My mom has a gift. Everybody has a gift, that one thing they were born to do in this world. My mom has lots of gifts, but if you ask anybody who knows her, they will easily tell you about this one:
My mom was born to be a mom.
After my sister, my mom had two miscarriages. It was suggested to her by someone that she stop trying to have another baby and maybe focus on all the other “fun” things in life. “What is funner than raising babies?” my mom asked in complete seriousness.
What do I remember from my childhood? Magic and beauty in ordinary situation and things. My childhood was notes in our lunches with her doodles that looked like they belonged in children’s books. It was Christmases and Easters where our house was completely transformed into winter wonderlands and spring magic. It was TGIF nights where my sister and I would get our sleeping bags out and camp out in the living room while my mom brought us sippy cups filled with pop and bowls of popcorn with real butter melted on the top. It was my mom giving us art supplies and musical instruments and taking us outside to run and play and looking through microscopes with us and reading to us and patiently watching all of our performance art. It was trips to the library where we would take home as many books as the three of us could carry. It was road trips with music and car games and it was lying in the basement during bad thunderstorms where she told us stories to keep us from getting too scared.
I remember trips to the grocery store where people would approach her, sure that she was somebody famous. Simple and objective and true – my mom is gifted with physical beauty. I still catch men doing a double-take when she walks by and people seldom are able to come close to guessing her age. One of her gifts to my sister and I was teaching us that beauty and intelligence are not mutually exclusive, as some people may believe. I know better than that, because I know my mom. Yes, my mom is beautiful, but she is more than that. She is smart. And not just smart, but really, truly smart and hardworking, in a going-back-to-get-her-master’s-degree-in-her-fifties-and-graduating-with-a-4.0-while-working-full-time kind of way, with an insatiable curiosity and desire to discuss the human brain and psychology and meditation and social issues.
What do I remember about my teenage years? The years that everyone promises will be hell for all mother/daughter duos? I remember long talks and laughs and my mom supporting me and trusting me and a deep, deep cherishing of my mother. I remember being insecure and making selfish choices and making stupid choices and growing up and my mom there every step, never judging or scolding me, but always offering me her support and words of wisdom. I remember times when I hated what she was saying to me. At times hating her tiny questions that made you look in your soul for an answer that sometimes didn’t feel good at all. I remember coming out on the other side of the questions deeply grateful she had asked them. I remember her being the mom all my friends would sigh and say “I wish I could talk to my mom like that.” Because my mom got it. She was an adult and a mother, but she never forgot what it was like to be a teenage girl.
My mom is a trusted secret keeper. She is the one people so often turn to to confide in, to cry to. She is the ultimate counselor in that you can’t help but feel better in her presence. Obviously this has benefited me as her child, but it goes so far beyond me. She is that person to co-workers, clients, friends, acquaintances, and friends-of-friends. Years ago I was in the midst of a terrible fight with an ex and I called my mom hysterical because I was afraid both he and I were about to lose it. She asked to speak to him. He went into the bathroom and sat there on the phone with her, his panic and anger and intensity melting away. I will never know what she said to him, but I know the scary part was over, ending peacefully with both of us finally mellowed by my mother’s calm, warm words.
As all parents do, my mom always wanted to give me the best of everything. I remember after my parents’ divorce, as a teenager, eating pizza off paper plates set on a gold chest of clothing in my mom’s tiny new apartment living room while we tried to adjust the rabbit ears on the television to get some free basic tv. I can vividly remember the pain in my mom’s face saying goodbye to us when we left to our dad’s house, and the pit in my stomach every time I had to leave her. I don’t know that I ever told her that the memory of eating off the gold chest is a bittersweet one – it stings to remember, especially as an adult, because I know she wanted to give us more. She wanted us to be eating the meal of our choice (which was probably actually pizza to begin with) in our dining room with all the material luxuries we were used to, like cable, a big house, a big yard, nice things, and a happy, intact family. But what I remember about that time was how fun it was. Me, my mom, and my sister together. I didn’t care about all of those other things.
The hard part about having the world’s best mother as your own is that it makes imagining life without her completely unbearable. As far back as I can remember, I have been acutely aware of the fact that my mom is mortal. I can vividly recall specific moments of being paralyzed with fear that my mom would die. Every occasion I have with her is a moment to soak up her wisdom, her love, the pure comfort of being in her presence. The thought that there may come a day where she is not with me physically to offer these gifts is a thought so painful I can barely type it out on this screen for fear that it will some day be true.
I am now a mother in a world where we are constantly bombarded with a new book about this parenting style or that parenting philosophy or this new research that shows Plan A was junk and Plan B is what is best for your child. I haven’t read a single book. This isn’t because I feel like I know everything or because I think those styles or philosophies are “wrong”. It’s because I have the rare opportunity to learn from the most gifted mother in the world.
When I was younger I thought every mother was like mine. As I grew up I learned this was definitely not the case. And when I became a mother myself, I learned that her talents were not magically gifted to me, as I hoped maybe they would be. I now know that I will be a good mom, maybe even a great mom. But I will never be my mom.