Sunday, May 13, 2007

with appreciation

It is mother's day, a beautiful sunny day, ripe for gardening. A rose bush will be planted in the front yard, K protesting its thorny stalks. Dahlia bulbs will be planted and peonies too. Seed packets waiting in the garage, a new series of cups to hold them as they grow.

But before this, before fingernails reflect the condition of the earth, I want to send my heart out to all of the mothers I know:

My own, who knows well how to sacrifice. She spent her spring break in my kitchen, tearing down awful green wallpaper, helping K and I learn to cut a chair rail and put up paint behind major appliances. She stayed late, sawdust in her hair, making sure we were closer to done, and when she went home, in her car she carried materials to make a queen's dress for our musical. What she can do: paint on canvas and walls, sing sweet lullabies like "You are My Sunshine," teach her daughters to love literature (want to roll around in the glory of words), speak French, change a flat tire, write in calligraphy, shingle patches onto the roof after a wind storm, bargain hunt, cook delicious spanakopita, take stunning photographs, read directions and follow them, sew amazing dresses (including the one for my wedding), maneuver her way through complicated finances and taxes, pick out the perfect tie and suit combination, use Photoshop and show me how too, celebrate diversity, make delicious corned beef and cabbage, tell us stories about our heritage, take us on adventures and on road trips, speak about important topics with understanding and patience, give advice whether we want it or not (but knows when to step back), rewire a thermostat, put together a stunning yearbook, inspire people to learn and explore... I could go on forever. What she cannot do: stop loving us. No matter what we've done to inspire frustration, I've always known she loves me, even if I make the worst of choices. She wants the best for my sister and I, arms wide open, without restriction and without giving up. She is a mother we are both lucky to have.

Other mothers:

My father's mother. This woman is amazing. I admire her in the deepest sense of the word--she is politically active and will back up her beliefs, she is compassionate and contemplative, she loves to read (gotta love a woman who loves literature) and her family. She was a college professor, which isn't something you can always say about women of this generation and is incredibly smart with money. She is supportive and encouraging and again, with the love. It's always there, ever-present, rooting my sister and I on, along with our cousins and her children, being our cheerleader when we need it the most. She lives quietly on a lake with her husband, my grandfather, and she is now finding ways to be stronger than ever as he battles Alzheimer's. She lives peacefully, is a pacifist, and loves long letters. We are truly blessed to have her in our lives, in our family.

My mother's mother. She is a delight! I remember visiting her in Foxboro (MA) in that beautiful house on that busy street when we were so young. I loved sitting on their porch, arguing with her husband Walter, about whether army boots or walking shoes were the best to walk in. I remember warm meals and iced drinks and listening to her tell stories with that ah-accent. She moved to Florida and we'd visit her there, just on a golf course, watch the OJ Simpson trial and have beef and potatoes for dinner. She loves to smile and that smile is infectious. After Florida, they moved to Chattanooga, place of my childhood, where my aunt lives now. We haven't been down as often as I'd like, but I think of her often and smile. She's fiercely loyal, loving, and her laid back nature and warm heart and encouragement keep us patient and daring. Another blessing, a remarkable woman.

K's mother, who is ever-impressive too. (I ask myself: how did we get so lucky? How is it that we can celebrate so many mothers in our lives that are moving, inspiring, and kind?) I remember being struck at how different K's family operates--my own family is prone to wild emotions, putting it all out in a raw way, explaining our feelings no matter what the consequence. K comes from a family of quiet patience and loyal understanding, where if something is upsetting, it is dealt with in a way that is contemplative and respectful. I know I have not been a patient person in the past, and this is something I am gradually learning. If I am upset in a situation, I can think of K's mother--how might she approach this difficult and strange conflict? Holding her own head up, looking at it with humor, and realizing what you can and cannot do. She too is talented--the little things she's made, painted, and knit stun me. I have a small lap desk she filled with calligraphied stationary and painted with lovely flowers, an object both a work of art and a treasure. So much else--so many kindnesses, every season with something from her home to ours to brighten it up, and how warm I feel that they welcomed me into their home the past two Christmases (even allowing me to go to mass with them this past season, despite my wiggling and not knowing what to do) when my own family traveled (once to France and the second time to my sister in Texas). I'm so glad to be marrying into this family; our own children will have fabulous extended family, just as I did (and do). And you see her love and her magic in her own children--K and his siblings, who have all become such wonderful people, who know and understand the importance of respect, patience, and wide open unconditional love.

And mothers of my own generation:

K's sister, who is celebrating her first mother's day. Her son is adorable and we are all in love with him. This surprise puts a glow in her smile; she adores this little boy so much. She is learning the pattern of motherhood, and I can see she is a good one, will continue to be good. Their small family is content, making their way into an adult world that is confusing but full of pleasures. Her arms wrapped around this baby is a sight to see. A lovely mother indeed.

Evonne, whose son was also a surprise, but a welcome one, as I believe she was told she had a slim chance of having children. She loves Brodi with a fierce delight and finds that being strong in the face of difficulty is fuel for her. Being a single mother cannot be easy, especially in the bustling city of Milwaukee, especially when making ends meet is complex and wobbling. But she is his light, and is a light alone as well. Arms wide open, she loves with a faithful heart.

Mandy, who is not yet a mother, but a little peanut grows inside of her. Due in August (and I'm so looking forward to her baby shower just being planned), her baby will learn what it is to have a quirkily glorious mother. She is the kind of friend you hold close in your heart--she brings laughter and joy, compassion and love to every meeting. She will be a delightful mother, honest and forthright, tittering with glee.

And, of course, to what lizardek calls her imaginary friends, these strangers in the wide world, who are mothers, and whose words reflect the reality and joy of being parents. To those of you reading this now, who are mothers, who have mothers, who are soon to be mothers: Happy Mother's Day. May it be a peaceful, relaxing, and joyous celebration!


Liz said...

Here's to the wonderful mothers in all our lives!

jblack designs said...

Wow! What a great post. Your mother (and the others) sound amazing. I especially love the line about her making you love literature (like dear Miss Em and her certain slant!)-- "want to roll around in the glory of words."

You're a lucky gal!