On Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day has always meant something a bit more to me, since even before I was a mother myself. I was born May 10, 1975, a day which, in that year, fell on the Saturday – the day before Mother’s Day. My Mother always said I was the best gift any mother could ask for (how to ensure your child always feels loved and cherished, though maybe a tiny bit spoiled!). I have come to associate my birthday with Mother’s Day.

When, 30 years later, my son was born three weeks before Mother’s Day, the day took on a whole new meaning. He was my birthday present and my Mother’s Day present. The best gift anyone could ask for.

Somehow, another 9 years have passed and mothers, mothering and my Mother have all taken on a new meaning for me. It is not until you become a parent that you fully understand and appreciate your own parents. Or yourself.

I find I am closer than ever to my Mother, have learned so much from her and know her better now – not just the person she is today but the person she was during all those years of my childhood.

I am proud when someone says I am just like her, or when I find myself doing and saying things I know I picked up from her.

She has taught me so much, about the world and life.

She has taught me to love art and music and culture and history. She gave me my love of books and writing and has encouraged me through every word I have written over the years.

She has taught me how to treat people. To be accepting and tolerant, to see the good in people, to really enjoy people, and to love people for who they are.

She has taught me the importance of family, both ancestors and present-day family members, both the far-flung distant relations and our close little group. Ours is a small one but we are close, especially her side of the family. I have watched in awe as she cares for and celebrates all of us, especially her own Mother.

She has taught me to treat my son as an individual, not to live out my dreams through him but to watch and help him figure out his own dreams.

She held my hand as my heart broke, she assured me I was good when others said I was not, assured me they were jealous when they were mean. I know I will return again and again to these examples as my son grows.

My Mom is a beautiful individual, inside and out. She has always sparkled through life. I would love to share with you my one defining memory of some moment we shared but, thankfully, there are just too many to choose from…

Breakfasts in the backyard in summer. Her setting up my painting things in our sunroom when I was little. Stunning birthday parties in pretty birthday dresses. Every single seasonal celebration – ever. Arguing over how to write a letter when I worked for her. Going out dancing with her and her office when I was underage. Our first, and subsequent, trips to Ireland. Our trip to the South of France. An amusing evening in a Paris bar. Summers spent at the cottage. All the school events she came to. The books we shared. The iguana and our life together after my father left. And so many more.

Perhaps the one that I come back to the most, though, is this: Either I was very young or not yet born. My Mother was in Paris and, walking past a restaurant, she saw a mother and daughter sitting in the window sharing a meal together. They must have looked happy and close. It was the perfect mother-daughter moment and it stayed with her always. She wished that one day, she would experience a similar moment with her own daughter. I’ve always thought that was a beautiful and truly motherly wish.

And I’m happy to say we have shared many of those moments, some of them even in Paris.

Amazingly, a few years ago, I came across a New Yorker card with a picture of a mother and her young son sitting in the window of a fancy restaurant having dinner together (in case you haven’t seen these cards, they use the front covers of past issues on the front, sometimes with a message inside; in this case, it was a Mother’s Day card). They were both smiling and the mother held her wine glass, the boy his juice glass, up together. I thought of my Mother, and then I thought of my son. It was only after I bought it and pinned it to the wall in my office that I noticed the date on it: May 10.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there. Especially mine. xo

“Here’s to You, Mom,” by Harry Bliss, May 10, 1999, newyorker.com

 

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