Mother’s Day is a great thing if you are a mom or if you have a mom. But if your mom is not in your life for any reason, Mother’s Day can be…tough. As Mother’s Day approaches, I think of my adoptive mother, who raised me until she died from pancreatic cancer when I was 24 and she was only 62. I’ve officially witnessed 20 Mother’s Days without her. I don’t remember the sound of her voice anymore. I don’t remember what perfume she wore or what she wanted to be when she grew up.
But I remember that she made me baths when I was sick or felt sad. I remember she never owned a pair of jeans and wore a size 8 wide shoe. I remember that she always told me I could go to college – when no one else in our family, including her, ever did. I remember that she made maroon and white pom-poms for my cheerleading team to put on our shoes for competitions in grade school. I remember that she was the kind of person who lit candles for special events and believed that homemade chicken noodle soup could cure anything. I remember that she wanted me to be a flight attendant and get married and have ‘something to fall back on’ in case the whole marriage thing (which I couldn’t do soon enough) didn’t work out. I remember that she was sad a lot. And I wanted so badly to make her happy. I tried all the time. And then she died.
She never got to live the life she really wanted – I’m not sure she really knew what that was until it was too late. She never met my children. She never saw me finish graduate school. She never got to know me when I got my head out of my butt and stopped being a stupid teenager. But I think of her every day and try to make my life count twice – once for me, and once for her. I owe her that.
I also think of my birth mom, who I was lucky enough to meet and get to know for two years. I wish her life had been easier. I wish her life had been better because she gave me up for adoption, which was a great choice since I am here to write this blog. But she struggled, too. I think of both of my mothers’ struggles,their lives, their hopes and dreams – and I feel very lucky to be here. My birth mom shared with me that she considered aborting me, among other options. But here I am today – a mom myself to a 13-year-old boy and a 11-year-old girl. I feel grateful to be here every day. I can’t tell you enough what a gift it is to be alive. But you’re here – you’re reading this. You know. Right?!
And I will tell you a secret, too: I was terrified to be a mother. I never thought about kids or getting married when I was growing up. I never thought I would be a ‘good mom.’ I’m still not sure that I am. None of us has a roadmap; kids don’t come with instructions. All we can do is what the poet Maya Angelou said: “When you know better, you do better.” She also said this:
“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I will tell you this: I make my husband do the Christmas lights. I cried the first time United lost my luggage (after I’d gotten stuck in Germany on a work trip and missed my 18th wedding anniversary last year); but lord knows I absolutely love a rainy day. I even have a rainy day playlist! I hope my mom understands that I never wanted to make a living and have something to fall back on – I wanted to make a life. I knew it when I was 5 years old and I know it now. I feel it in my bones. I hope I can give that to my children too and help them make a life. It’s what I live for.
I really try every day to do better. Some days I do better than others. I am trying to show my children what it means to be strong. To live. To be grateful. I am trying. The greatest gift I have received from being a mother? Understanding the gift of forgiveness and patience. We are all doing the best we can with what we have at any given moment. I always tell my kids – you never know what someone is dealing with ‘behind the scenes.’ We are all human. We are all good people who sometimes do bad things. This is life. And we are all in it together.
This is what I tell my children because it is what I know, what I believe in my heart to be true. I am a mother. This is what we do. We try. We love, despite. We never give up. We are tough. We believe in our children and want them to have better than we did. But mostly, we never, ever, ever give up.
To all your moms out there – xoxo. Be good to yourself, ladies. You deserve it.