"If you have a mom, there is nowhere you are likely to go where a prayer has not already been." ~ Robert Brault
How do you celebrate 80 years? This is something I have been racking my brain over for the past week or two. An 80th birthday requires something more than just a gift certificate to McDonalds or for a nook, even if they are two of her favorite gifts. And especially if the person celebrating 80 years of living is your mom.
My mom has given me many gifts and has taught me a multitude of lessons. One lesson I learned was how to be brave. Twenty years ago, after my father died, Mom slowly began to plant her own garden, to forge a new path in her life. She reached out to acquaintances at work whom became lifelong friends. She built her own tribe. She continued to work, to travel, to take an interest in the world around her. She taught me courage and the importance of adapting to change.
I also learned how to show my love for my family through small (and large) gestures. My husband and two of my daughters have temporarily lived with Mom, my husband when commuting between a new job in Connecticut and our home in Maryland and my daughters when starting new careers. No matter what time they arrived home from work a hot dinner would be waiting for them. My brother-in-law, who is a computer trouble-shooter, receives a hot lunch whenever he comes over to help her with a technical issue.
Mom is a true nurturer. When my children were young, one of them contacted scabies and all three girls had to stay home while we underwent treatment. My husband was working in a separate state, my dad had recently died, and I was feeling in over my head. The day after we found out about the scabies Mom showed up at our door with a box of Dunkin' Donuts and a smile. She knew I was feeling overwhelmed and without even giving it a second thought, came to cheer us up.
I inherited my love of music through my mom. Music played on the stereo while she cleaned the house. At night, while we washed and dried dishes, we would sing along to one album or another, Mom singing harmony while I sang the melody. She introduced me to musicals, instilling in me a life long passion for musical theater.
Another love that Mom shared with me was a love of books. When I was in my early teens she introduced me to Agatha Christie mysteries. We would spend Saturday afternoons reading mystery anthologies. One of my earliest memories is going to the local library with Mom. The library had beautiful murals painted along its walls and I would sit and browse through fairy tale anthologies while Mom looked for her own books. We still often share books, as does my husband, who loves crime and espionage thrillers as much as she.
I was not an easy child to raise. Mom found it difficult to deal with my moodiness and sensitive nature. We did not share a lot in common when it came to personality but she compensated by seeking out things we both enjoyed, teaching me how to do needlepoint and embroidery and encouraging my love of art and music.
It wasn't until I was in my 40's that I began to look at my mom through a different lens. I don't know if this will make sense but I grew to realize that she wasn't just my mom, someone who might question my taste in clothes and hairstyles, but also a person, someone who had her own wishes and dreams, hopes and regrets. As I aged I began recalling how I used to view her when she was 40, 45, 50, as old. Now I ruefully laugh at my misperception, especially since at 56 I still consider myself young.
I most fully appreciate my mom's joie de' vivre when watching her interact with my friends. They adore her. They think she is lovely, smart and funny. Even my children's friends love spending time with her. Below is one of my favorite pictures of her, taken after an afternoon spent making origami dragons with my daughter Mary and Mary's best friend, Rachel:
She keeps the dragons on display in her china closet, as a memento of that laughter-filled afternoon.
How fortunate I am to have a mom who is also one of my best friends.
Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.