To be entirely honest, I procrastinated getting you a Mother’s Day present. Or getting you a card. But I’m not really a fan of most Mother’s Day cards anyway. I actually had a conversation earlier today about the challenge of finding a good greeting card: so many cards are just full of cliches or hyperbolic statements about “the perfect mom who did everything right.” So I am writing you a letter instead. Because you weren’t the perfect mom, and you didn’t do everything right.
But you’re my mom, and you did a lot of things pretty darn right. I think I need more than a greeting card’s worth of space to remind you how wonderful of a person you are.
First off, I think you get a ton of credit for birthing five babies. Period. That in itself is a pretty amazing feat. And then after you had all those babies, you had to raise them too.
Yes, it was rocky at times. You yelled, we yelled, we all cried, threw things, said hateful things, but we learned to apologize, learned that people are more important than things, that relationships are worth fighting for, forgiving for, and doing a lot of hard work to keep.
You taught me the meaning of reconciliation. You showed us what it looked like to offer forgiveness even when an apology hadn’t been extended for the hurts done to you. What it meant to fold a rough and hard relationship back into your life, and love someone -in both honesty and grace- into being a better person. I saw that in how you loved your dad, though you had a lot of reasons not to. I see that as you are loving him now, when it’s become harder than it has been in a long time.
You are one of the most tenacious souls I know. You have not always done things skillfully or gently or selflessly, but you don’t give up. (I know, you’re rolling your eyes right now, and counting all the times just in today you have already failed or quit or shied away from something. Stop it 🙂 I mean that sincerely. Because you have been in a not-always-easy marriage for over thirty years. You raised four crazy children. You homeschooled four crazy children! You buried a daughter. You grieved. You mothered messy, grieving children amidst the storm of your own heartache. You grew up as we grew up. You made mistakes and learned from them. You faced your depression and anxiety. You continue to face it. You overcame in so many ways.
I smile when you tell me how much you are not a people person, how intimidating people and conversations are, how much you’d rather be selfish and closed-off and isolated. Because you also can’t help but to continually adopt “strays.” From the neighbor kids who were our childhood friends and were slowly grafted into the family. To the later bunch of neighborhood kids, after your own kids were mostly grown, who just needed love and consistency. Who you let run in and out of your doors, who you disciplined and loved even when you didn’t want to, who took to calling you “mom” on occasion, because sometimes that is the best word for love.
Today even, you have opened your arms to the people who have needed it. I am heading this morning to a Mother’s Day breakfast with the family -which includes Nate and Farielle, not “blood family” but two adult friends who happened to need a mom.
Your life has drawn a magnificent picture of what true hospitality and welcome should look like.
I am very thankful for where our relationship is today. I am glad that I can look back over the years, and see the ups and downs: I can see the dysfunction and brokenness, and then the honesty and change and healing. I am grateful for all the things you have passed down to me: your fantastic genes in the shape of great, thick hair and nice eyebrows 😉 your love of words and learning and discovery. Your creativity and absolute love-affair with books. Your compassion and earnestness.
And there are things I did not inherit, but still very much appreciate seeing in you: your enjoyment of Christmas decorations and Holiday movies, your delight in things -knickknacks, antiques, cool rocks, colorful things, vintage napkins, cute toys, pinwheels, pretty things, etc. I delight in the ways that you are easy to please. That you take delight in simple pleasures, that The Dollar Store is your favorite store and can provide you with hours of entertainment, that you find wonder in watching birds in the backyard, that you find joy in silliness and simple toys and trinkets. I know that is not always the case, that many days are heavy. But I so seriously enjoy your delight in simple things, and I hope you can see that as both a gift and a rare talent. One I frequently admire.
So Mom, I want you to recognize that this letter only encapsulates a tiny piece of all the ways in which you are a great mom and a beautifully crafted person. I owe so much of who I am to you. I undeniably see God at work in you, even as you struggle to see that, or even to want that. Allowing yourself that struggle is yet another way in which I see your courage.
Thanks for everything, I love you a ton!