What It Means (To Be a Mother)

I love Mother’s Day. I love it. I have many friends who hate it, or are hurt by it, and I get it, and I’m sorry that they have to endure it. But still, I can’t help myself. Mother’s Day, for me, feels like the Christmas of Mamas. Even the week before, it feels this way, seeing other moms in public being kinder, sweeter, nicer, to their families; lest this day should come, and they should be greeted with coal, or its springtime cousin, compost, maybe.

I love Mother’s Day because it helps us remember how much we love our children, and it helps them remember how much they love us. It shines a light on a mostly thankless calling, and takes our eyes off of ourselves, and puts them back where they belong, onto the people that we love.

It reminds us of our beginnings, and takes us back to where we came from. Mother’s Day is a day of remembering our roots, while enjoying the blossoms on our newly budding branches. It helps us to look back at what has been, appreciate what is, and look forward to where hope lives, while celebrating. I love Mother’s Day, because I love being a Mommy.

Doing this Mom thing, means doing the hardest things that I have ever had to do. It means trying my best, and still failing a little every day. It means I have to put feet to my love, and do all the menial tasks that I swore in my Women’s Lib studies that weren’t good enough. It means cleaning up bodily fluids that don’t belong to me. Saying the same thing fifty times, and hearing, “But, you never told me…”

It means watching family heirlooms be broken, and remembering that they were just things. It means keeping my face neutral, as little voices pour out their secrets. It means holding hands, across all of life’s earliest streets. Potty training in public restrooms, and always questioning the cleanliness of toilet seats. It means don’t eat that, and don’t touch this, please do it this way, and don’t get hurt. It means I just need a minute, because Mommy needs to think, but whenever I am away from you, you are all I think about anyway.

It means that I love you more, than I have the courage or ability to love myself. It means that I would give my every heartbeat, to ensure that you are safe. It means walking slower, so that you can walk with me, it means everything takes longer than my watch says it should be. It means waking up, thinking of others, and falling asleep only after I have checked that you are still breathing. It means my throat has rocks in it, that my breath catches upon, whenever I see your chubby hands, or you sing, or say you love me.

Being a Mommy, means that I have to be strong. I have to keep going, and that I have to learn more. It means celebrating milestones, and trying to make every day special. It means saying I love you so much, throughout each day, as many times as it takes, for my children to remember it. It means kisses and cuddles, Band-aids and soothings. It means singing to tired little crankies, when I want to be reading. It means bedtimes and stories, and another drink of water. Brush your teeth, let me check, and good job, you did its.

It means spontaneous dance parties in the living room, and singing camp songs on road trips to keep the edge out of my voice. It means tears, laughter, and sometimes both at the same time. It means that everything is not about me any longer. Thank God. It means holding on, even after my nerves or arms have run out of strength, and letting go and trusting, before I feel ready. It means being scared, and steadying my voice, so that it doesn’t shake when I tell trusting hearts that everything is going to be okay.

Being a Mom means being a part of something so much bigger than you or I. It means having a worldwide tribe. It means having the support of others whose days look like mine. It means saying yes, to a whole new belonging. It means supporting and encouraging other soldiers in this fight. Giving smiles and kind words of encouragement, to the weary and battle scarred. It means being a part of the royal we, the we as mothers, we as humanity. It means the birthing of new hope, and next generations. It means that life will go on, and that goodness is not done. It means joy, and sorrow, all wrapped up in love. It means that your heart beats harder, and that things steal the breath from your lungs.

It means living a life, that is worth emulating. Rising above previous standards, and doing the right things. It means sacrifice beyond what we all thought we could give, and then being glad that we were able to stretch. It means heart break, and a million heart swells, every day. It means answering questions that I’d never considered. It means learning from the people that I brought into this earth, and hoping that I am teaching them just as much as they’re teaching me. It means being humbled. It means being loved. It means saying, “You are lovely,” so, so much.

It means strong arms, while keeping hands soft. It means looking in closets, and under beds, and being ready to fight off even imaginary threats. It means fruits and vegetables, and drinking enough water. It means sunscreen, and guilt, and waking up to try harder.

Being a Mommy is so much work. It is harder than I could tell you with a thousand words. But it’s wonderful, too. It’s the best thing I’ve done. The struggle is real, people. But so is the love. Wherever you are today, whether you celebrate, or not, I hope that you remember what you may have forgotten. That you matter, and have always mattered, to someone. That life is worth celebrating. And that you are loved.

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Strawberry Fields Forever…

For as long as I can remember, strawberries have made me think of my mother. Sometimes this was good, and sometimes it was with disdain. But still, 30 years have passed with the connection remaining secure.

For the entirety of my childhood, my mother had one theme for her kitchen décor: Strawberries. And yes, I was born in the 80’s, and it was totally tubular. There were strawberry nik-naks, strawberry salt and pepper shakers, strawberry dish towels, and a strawberry cookie jar, just to name a few. Our address changed many times, but the theme remained the same. Whether in Washington, Nevada, or Arizona, my earliest memories were all strung together with green vines, and ripe faux little berries.

To this day, whenever I see assorted strawberry paraphernalia, I consider buying it for my mother. Which is ridiculous, because her kitchen is no longer a field of animated strawberry tchotchkes. In their place, all things blue and white, and Currier and Ives, find their way to a second lease on life. Or possibly, a first, but only if the price is right. The thriftiness in my family is as much a part of our DNA as blonde hair is for other families.

And yet, those darn strawberries still mean so much to me. They mean the kitchen, where I pretended to be Cinderella, doing yet another round of chores while I waited for my prince to come. They mean the place where my mother spent hours stretching our meager grocery budget, by making almost everything from scratch, day in and day out, for our family of five. She did this, in spite of our complaining about how magical our friends had it at their houses, where they ate sugar cereal for breakfast, not coffee cake, popovers, or homemade biscuits everyday.

They mean the place where we made the cookies we so often baked and decorated together, homemade bread warming up our house and oven in the winter,  and the shelf that held all my favorite cups.

Quite simply, strawberries remind me of home.

And not so simply, they remind me of my mother.

My mother. Our relationship is anything but simple. It has been a journey fraught with perilous roads, heart-wrenching cracks, and twists and turns that neither of us saw coming. And yet, there has been laughter. There has been joy, and inside jokes, and the deeply personal bond of understanding that can only be achieved with the one who bore you, and continues to bear you up, even in the toughest of times. Maybe, for us, especially in the toughest of times.

I am 35 years old. I have a husband and children of my own. I have the most amazing friends to ever walk on planet earth. I have a job I love, and causes that I really believe in. If I need it, I have it. And yet… and yet, sometimes, I still just need my mom.

I remember in high school, when I was at the peak of my distancing myself from my parents. I was years ahead of most of my friends in this, and barely even spoke to the people who brought me into this world. I worked so hard, and paid for my own things. School clothes, senior pictures, bus fare, you name it. I felt so very independent. That is, until I had some crazy combination of strep throat and pneumonia. And all I wanted was for my mom to take care of me.

As deep as our relationship was fractured, she did it. She read to me, and made me soup, and sat by my bed until I fell asleep. It was the best time I have ever had while being sick. Of course, I couldn’t tell my friends this. Or her. I didn’t want people to think that I actually needed my mother. But I did. And, I still do.

She is an amazing and complicated woman. She is beautiful, and hard working. She has a quick wit, and sharp memory. She pays more attention to the detail of her outfits and matching jewelry every day, than most people do to their wedding ensemble. She is sensitive, and soft hearted. She is stronger than she believes she is. She is a fighter. She cares deeply, and thinks too much. She needs reminders that she matters, and that she is truly loved. She is an amazing dancer, and can keep rhythm with the best of them. She loves art, and words, and history. She colored for fun, before it was trendy again. She has a beautiful singing voice, especially when she thinks no one else can hear her. She cries easily, and remembers movie quotes from 30 years ago, laughing every time she repeats them, as if it was the first. She has taught me more about holding on, than I could tell you in my lifetime.

She is not perfect. But she is mine.

Some people, believe it or not, do not like strawberries. I’ve heard from friends that they just can’t get past the seeds. I disagree. I love strawberries. I admire their ability to grow, in even the most shallow of soil. I love their color, their shape, and their bright appearance. I love that they know how to keep going, though their vines hang heavy in summer with weighted fatigue. I love how they refresh others, how they are distinguished,  how they bring joy to my children, and to me. I find, that their goodness overtakes all the other parts. That the stem gives me something to hold onto. And how maybe, the hard bits help me appreciate what is sweet.