My mom arrived earlier in the week, and we had been prepping ever since. We sipped coffee as our eyes scanned the room, our list-making brains doing their thing.
“The succulents don’t look right in that planter – they aren’t raised up enough or something.” I mumbled quietly to myself. Or so I thought.
But in the time it took for me to park Phoebe in front of Frozen, my mother had abandoned her coffee and disappeared. I looked out the kitchen window and there she was, in my backyard wearing her nightgown and robe, gathering bricks from my garage. Sweet Jesus. She’s collecting bricks to raise up the succulents.
My mom is a fixer, a do-er, a woman of action. She is also a listener – she hears your plight, and it becomes her mission to make it better.
When I was a teenager, I resented her fixing. I thought she was trying to fix me. I thought she was trying to make me better – when really she was just trying to make things better….for me.
Now I am a mother, and I see things from the other side. Mothers are helpers. We help our children into the world, and then we help them navigate their way through it. We help them to stand, use the bathroom, write their name, ride a bike….the list is endless. The helping is easy – it’s the not helping that’s hard. The world seems so big and scary; danger and disappointment around every corner. It all feels so huge and urgent.
This is the bitch of motherhood. While we wish we had a magic wand to make all things better for our kids, sometimes the trick is not to fix, but allow. To allow and make space for their sadness, their failures, their odd but passionate love for t-shirts featuring animals wearing bedazzled sunglasses.
Some nights Emma cries when I tuck her in. She misses her friends in Massachusetts, where “she was one of the planets moving around the sun.” Now she is just a “lone planet.” My throat gets tight and my brain goes into fix-it mode: A new puppy, a trampoline, a call to 1-800-RENT-A-FRIEND….anything to make it better. But I can only listen, or cuddle, or on really desperate nights, promise to paint pottery at Color Me Mine.
And I think of all the times my mom must have felt this way: When I didn’t make the cheerleading squad, got teased for my bad skin, failed my math test
again, had my heart broken. How those events hurt her as much as they hurt me.
More. They hurt her more.
So I want to say thank you, Mom.
Thank you for all the times you drove me back to school to retrieve my flute from my locker, for staying up past midnight helping me with my First Lady report on Jackie Kennedy, my African Serengeti diorama, the Eqyptian pyramid out of sugar cubes. Thank you for changing “candy stripper” to “candy striper” on my college applications.
Thank you for saving every artifact of my childhood: my Lolly Dolly, my bound and illustrated story of Pete the Planaria, and my peach, taffeta 8th grade graduation dress. Even 23 years later, it still makes a statement:
Thank you for answering the phone 12 years ago when Phil called during our 24-hour “break-up,” and for telling him I was on a date with Danny Saland, even though I hadn’t seen Danny Saland since 12th grade, and for the record no one has called him “Danny” since 8th grade. It’s Dan.
Thank you for planting my tulip bulbs and for the buying/ironing/application of bed skirts (aka. “dust ruffles”) to my beds, things we both know would never happen if left under my tutelage. Thank you for reciting your cheeseball recipe for the 78th time because I always lose the post-it note I scribbled it on, for buying me a recipe box even though you know I will never use it, for mailing me a random newspaper wedding announcement of a girl from my Brownie Troop, an obituary of a priest I guess I should remember, and Bed Bath and Beyond coupons with a sticky note: “For the duvet cover clips.”
Thank you for spoiling my kids, for giving them rolls with lots of butter for breakfast but still making them eat broccoli for dinner, for hiding in a closet every time Emma comes home from school during one of your visits. Thank you for always having new Sponge Bob toothbrushes at your house so I don’t have to remember to pack them. Thank you for taking the girls to the Florham Park Roller Rink and ACTUALLY ROLLER SKATING, for buying them socks at Costco, for playing ONE MORE GAME of Old Maid…for loving my children so much that you cry when they cry.
Thank you for the times you let me reject your help. For letting me make my own
mistakes decisions when every fiber of your being wanted to scream “NOOOOOO!” Like when I flew out to Chicago to visit a boyfriend you already knew was gay, or moved in with Phil before we were married, or chose cash over Waterford crystal as a wedding gift from Nannie. You stayed silent. Because some decisions aren’t meant to be fixed, but owned and assimilated by the person who made them.
Yet here you are, the Brick Lady in your seashell robe, risking back injury and neighborhood gossip so my succulents will stand tall and proud. And that doesn’t feel like fixing. It feels like love. And I need that as much at age 36 as I did at 16…or six.
Thanks for taking care of me, Mom. Please don’t ever stop.
Happy Mother’s Day xoxo