When I was a little girl, Mother’s Day was always filled with excitement for me. I loved preparing breakfast in bed for my Mom and presenting her with whatever handmade gift I brought home from school. It was so much fun to make a big deal of Mom and to try to make her feel special.
Now that I’m a Mom too, Mother’s Day is different, as is the way I see and understand my own beautiful mother. She’s become less “Mom” to me and more “Marta”. She’s a woman, just like me, who deserves to be seen and appreciated for all that she is. Now that I can see her through the eyes of a fellow woman-warrior and friend, I think I love her even more. I know I appreciate her more.
This post honors my mother, Marta Hawkins. It also celebrates all moms because we’re all human and we’re all trying. We’re beautifully flawed, vulnerable, courageous, and tenacious. We’re all trying to find balance, to stay sane, and to give our kids the very best we have to offer without losing ourselves. Motherhood is the hardest and most rewarding role. It’s physically demanding, emotionally trying, and spiritually challenging. It’s mundane and maddening, magical and mystifying. Motherhood is everything.
So to all moms, I wish you a very happy Mother’s Day. I hope you recognize yourself here and feel seen and appreciated. Because you are.
When I think of my mother…
I remember a loving presence in our first home, often cooking, cleaning or keeping up the yard. She gave me security.
I remember her gently tracing a line down my forehead to the tip of my nose. Those soft strokes were so lovely that I wanted them to go on and on. Inevitably, though, they brought peaceful slumber. She gave me such comfort.
I remember her making a sterile, transitional space feel like home when we relocated from Pittsburgh to Grand Rapids. (Little did I know that while she was holding us all together, she was slowly letting go of her own father whom cancer was prying away from her.) She gave me stability.
I remember her buying me a “monster paddle” when recurring nightmares were depriving us all of precious sleep. She gave me the courage to face my demons.
I remember her falling down the stairs when she was expecting my little sister, and how I could sense the pain and fear she felt as she wondered if her baby was okay. She taught me how deeply we can cherish something or someone we’ve not yet met.
I remember her preparing for every holiday with excited anticipation. She filled our home with music, decorations and special treats for all seasons. She gave me joyful traditions.
I remember her art. Charcoal. Pastels. Paints. She used her talents to make this world more beautiful. She gave me a desire to create beauty, too.
I remember her music. Her guitar playing and singing. (Her bingeing on a single album for what felt like an eternity as we were cruising around in her red Buick Skyhawk lovingly named, “Baby”.) She gave me a love of musical expression.
I remember when one Sunday morning as she was trying to get us all ready for church, “The Wedding Song” came onto the digital clock radio on our kitchen counter. Tears started pouring from her eyes, filling me with confused concern. My father held her. She showed me that it’s okay to be a deeply feeling person and to let your feelings show.
I remember when she befriended Mrs. Perez, an elderly immigrant from Cuba who was new to the country, spoke very little English and lived alone. She taught me empathy and compassion, and that it’s important to look beyond your comfort zone for those in need.
I remember meals. Thousands of them. Some were very much appreciated, but most were under- or decidedly un– appreciated. She taught me that those we love and need most are often those we thoughtlessly take for granted. And that part of love is enduring and forgiving that.
I remember her singing “I’m proud of you, I’m proud of you and I hope that you are proud of you. I’m proud of you, I’m proud of YOU…and I hope that you are proud of you, too!” She gave me confidence and a sense of self-worth.
I remember one Christmas morning when a handmade ornament from one of us kids fell and shattered. Oh, how she cried. (Don’t worry, she fixed it and it still hangs on her tree each Christmas.) She taught me that the most valuable things in life can’t be bought, but come from the heart.
I remember her always finding beauty in nature. Birds. Seashells. The shore. The woods. The night sky. Everywhere she went she could find a reason for heartfelt delight. She instilled wonder and respect for nature in me and gave me a heart that loves our planet and all living things.
I remember the most amazing birthday cakes, creations so gorgeously detailed that we didn’t even want to cut into them. She taught me how to make someone feel very special.
I remember family vacations and day trips with uber aggressive itineraries. She taught me how to seize the moment and make the most of an opportunity.
I remember her crawling into bed at the end of many a long day with a book and almost certainly a desire – even a need – for a few moments of peace and solitude. And I remember her talking with me patiently as I innocently intruded on her alone-time, allowing me to be seen and heard, even though she wasn’t. She taught me selflessness.
I remember when she sent me off to college and how hard it was for us both to part. That summer she stopped treating me like a child and started treating me as a young adult. She taught me what letting go gracefully and lovingly looks like.
I remember when someone thoughtlessly told her her art wasn’t good enough. She taught me what it looks like to carry on with a broken heart.
I remember when my first child was born and how she showered him with love. She showed me how love expands across generations, and across space and time.
I remember when I finally found the courage to end a horrible relationship and she traveled almost 1,000 miles to stay with me for Valentine’s Day so he wouldn’t weasel his way back into my heart as he’d done before. She taught me that a mother’s love grows more fierce and determined in direct proportion to a threat. It doesn’t cower, and it doesn’t fade with age or time.
I remember when I was learning how to be married as I closed in on forty years of age. She looked into my eyes and said firmly, “Amy, stand your ground.” She taught me that love isn’t constantly giving in, but that it’s a complicated dance that involves compromise, boundaries, and a lot of thoughtful negotiations.
I remember mistakes. She taught me that despite our flaws and shortcomings we’re still worthy of love, and gave me the grace to forgive my own abundant mistakes.
Most of all, when I think of my mother, I remember LOVE.
Happy Mother’s Day
Thank you, Mom, for everything you’ve ever done for me. Thank you for all the love and patience, and for all the times that you took a deep breath and bit your tongue. Thank you for all the meals made with love that went unnoticed and unappreciated. For every holiday, every decoration, every cake, every cookie. For every time you helped me grow – physically, emotionally and spiritually – and every time you helped me find my own strength. No words can ever express how much it all means to me, how much YOU mean to me, and how very much I love you.
Happy Mother’s Day.