Saturday, May 10, 2008

It's Mother's Day: Call Your Mom. I Sure Wish I Could Call Mine.

Those words aren't mine -- believe it or not, they were uttered by football coach Bear Bryant (New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman tells the story of how Bear came to say them in this Sunday's edition). But I heartily echo the sentiment.

My mom's been physically gone from the world since November of 1992. But among all the cliches about loss, I've found this one particularly true: there isn't a day that goes by when I don't think about her.

Friday I went to the kids' preschool for a special mother's day shabbat, and they presented me with the gifts -- wooden jewelry boxes they'd decorated, and mother's day cards made with their teachers' help. But what really touched me was that I was there with all these other moms, that I had finally joined this amazing sorority and that I had something deep and profound in common with them all: the experience of motherhood.

I wish I could share it with my own mom, but at least I've joined the sisterhood, and it's given me an appreciation for all she did for me -- from making those cream cheese and radish sandwiches I took to school for lunch to schlepping me through Lord and Taylor's and Bloomie's and Macy's every year for clothes while putting up with my refusal to try on anything that wasn't Tomboy-ish, to sitting with me at the Macy's lunch counter after, and teaching me about the small pleasures of a sandwich and a milkshake.

My mom was opinionated, brash, pushy, even intrusive at times. But she was witty, provocative, a great party-giver and a party guest unafraid to get a little drunk and pretend she was the bouncer (she once demanded an incoming party guest say who he was, even though he was the former Governor of NY; when he said his name, she said, "Oh, right, I voted for you," and let him pass). She was a voracious reader with an insatiable intellect. And though she could be hypercritical and harsh, when she caressed my cheek with her hand or hugged me tight, I felt safe and enveloped in warmth and a bottomless font of mother love.

Now I know a little about just how much you have to put up with when you're a mom.
And also about how indescribably blissful it is to see your children smile and hear them bust up laughing.

The other week I burned myself cooking. Since then, my daughter has made a point, every day, of kissing me "on the burn" to make it better.

My mom may be gone, but my daughter has found a way -- without knowing -- to make my hurt from that loss just a wee bit better. And the best part is, that part of her that wants to make me better is a part I recognize: it was part of my mom. Years before I became a mom, my mom taught me how to be one. Maybe I'm starting to teach my daughter.

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