Happy Mother's Day to all - both mothers and all of the necessary players that go along with them: fathers, children, grandparents.
I was listening to NPR yesterday, where they were broadcasting stories, songs, and reflections about moms. I am happy that the up-on-a-pedestal goddess-like ideal of motherhood has toned down over the years to a more realistic picture. There was undue weight put on women to try and live up to the popular virtues of perfect selflessness and unconditional love.
On the other hand, the relationship between a woman and her children is a unique one. There are many kinds of love - pure, beautiful, devoted love. But there is no other love with the particular layers of depth and intensity that belong to a mother's love for her children. A woman's children are a part of her own layers of being, woven into her body and soul.
I've been thinking about my own mother, still going strong in the second half of her 70's. Mother of five, grandmother of 14. I don't think of her as being like other mothers, but maybe everyone feels that way about their own mom. One of the first adjectives that comes to mind when I think of her is strong. This might strike someone as odd who knows that she is five foot three and even at her peak of maternal years didn't weigh in much beyond 110.
My mom valued strength - physical, emotional and moral strength -as well as independence. When my older sister and I were in high school we had ongoing arm wrestling matches with our mom, who always won, as I recall. Hard to say if her victories were due more to physical strength or the fire of competition. Mom always was and still is a die-hard athlete, through and through. Tennis, field hockey, running races, water sports - she was always a valuable teammate and a formidable foe.
My mother has a powerful strength of spirit, and a very private side that guards its core with iron walls. Though she was never stingy with love and affection for her children and dogs, and loves to laugh and dance, she keeps other emotions close to her chest. She always encouraged us to let the little things...and even most of the big things just roll off our backs. "Oh for-GET it!" is her mantra in dealing with many of life's difficulties. But if there is any real trouble, nothing will get in the way of her coming to our aid.
The other alternative for coping with unhappiness that she sometimes offered us in our youth was to create a facsimile of the agent of our distress - a picture of that horrible teacher, for example - and tape it to our pillow. Then we could scream, punch, and hurl invectives to our heart's content, until the paper was a shredded remnant of our spent anger.
I have only seen Mom in tears a few times in my life. One of the only times, in fact, was when her own mother, my Grandma, died 28 years ago. I'll never forget what she said to me - No matter how old you are, or how old your mother is, it's always hard to lose that woman who brought you into the world.
My mom is strong and sensible.
The other thing about Mom is a nature that is innately playful. Perhaps the fact that she ended up taking on many responsibilities for her younger siblings at an early age led her to cherish the carefree days of youth that were somewhat abbreviated for her. Mom went out of her way to create a world of discovery, games, indoor and outdoor child-centered play. Card table forts in the living room, giant banked slides created on the stairway, a sofa trampoline, kickball, softball, sledding in the yard, scavenger hunts, board games, word games, card games. And she made our stuffed animals sing and talk to us, made up silly songs that made us giggle.
My mom is playful and funny.
Mom always delighted in the natural world, plants, bugs, animals, the whole world of stubbornly insistent life that crawls, creeps, pushes through snow, finds its home, cares for its young, carries on no matter what. And she taught us to love and appreciate beauty everywhere, and feel a sense of awe and wonder in the world that transcended intellectualizing any of it.
My mom taught us to love the living world.
Mom's mastery of the New York Times crossword puzzle always amazed me. Don't ever bother trying to play boggle or fictionary with her - she knows every word and how to use it in a sentence. Her bright, no-nonsense intelligence leads people to ask her to be the head of most committees and organizations she gets involved with.
My mom is smart and dependable.
My mother NEVER, EVER is cruel. Even as a kid, she would not jump on the bandwagon of any hazing or teasing, ever. She would have been more inclined to beat up the bully doing the hazing and teasing. She is also honest...whenever it's important. There is never any question about her integrity, but *when it comes to telling a great story the facts are flexible. She delights in many a creative storyteller, especially children, who weave fact and fiction into their tales so effortlessly.
My mom is kind and honest*
When I went away to college, other kids got a call from home every week (which seemed like a lot then - oh how cell phones have changed THAT aspect of life!). Other kids got letters from home and care packages with brownies. None of that happened with me, and yet I never once, not even for a glimmer of a second, questioned my mother's love for me. She let us loose, but loved us ferociously.
I thought that when I had children my place in my mother's eyes would be supplanted by her grandchildren. I was wrong. To this day, I feel the strength of my mother's devotion, even though she doesn't put it into words very often. Even when she gets annoyed or exasperated by me, or when I write long, sappy diatribes about her on the internet - not her thing. When push comes to shove, the five of us children come first in her eyes, no one else.
No one, no one loves me the way she does.
As for my own mother's day - my first gift is having A. home for a day and half. It was also great to see S. yesterday, albeit briefly.
The second wonderful and astounding gift came when I walked into the kitchen at 4:55 am to find my dear T. waiting for me. And this is after we all arrived home at 1:15 this morning from a long day trip out of town.
She looked like a stunned ghost, but was filled with such determination to share my morning with bright enthusiasm. Thank you, Miss T.
What astonishingly wonderful children I have.