“Look at your beautiful mom. She brightens everybody’s day with that smile.”
I was 9 and Kathy was 8 and we were sitting in what passed for the backseat of our blue MG convertible. We watched through the big glass window at 7-eleven as our mother chatted and laughed with the guy behind the counter. He was beaming. Our dad’s comment came from the driver’s seat as we waited for her.
Yesterday I was on the phone with my mother as we did our usual catching-up on the events of our week when suddenly she stopped and apologized for mistakes she’d made when I was a little girl. She wanted to make sure I knew how much she loved me. It isn’t the first time she’s done that and in that moment I was reminded of how beautiful and perfect she is.
How is she perfect?
- How she taught me the importance of honesty by marching me back into the grocery store at four years old after I secretly traded my prized tiny Gumby for a caramel and made me explain myself.
- How she took on my losses and my failures as her losses and failures, but never once took the credit for my successes.
- How she gave my 17-year-old self a glass of wine at a party, and joined me in my inebriation and uncontrollable laughter, while making sure I understood the importance of assigning my dad as designated driver.
- How she created her own pattern for Halloween “I-dream-of-Jeannie” costumes for my sister and me at seven and eight (we were obsessed), but made us wear long-sleeved shirts under the belly-revealing tops.
- How she rarely stood up for herself, but morphed into a potential bloody crime-spree fugitive if she thought someone had messed with one of her daughters.
- How she charged herself with my “bad” qualities, but credited the “good” ones to others with comments like, “you got your writing talent from your dad…you got your musical talent from your great-grandfather…you got your looks from your grandmother.” She doesn’t know how beautiful she is, or that she is also a great writer or that her musical ability shines through every time she dances.
- How every Christmas Eve my friends came to our house because they loved her and couldn’t get enough of the incredible meals she made that came straight from her heart.
- How she constantly celebrates the beauty of her mother, her daughters and her granddaughters, but doesn’t see her own beauty and how she is a part of all of it.
- How whenever she falls on her face, literally or figuratively, she is always the first one to laugh at herself.
- How in the most terrifying moments of my life, she is the one I always call for a reminder that I can handle those moments and why, and she is always right.
- How with loving heart and open arms, and when she knew they were wrong, she accepted my relationship choices, and when they ended, not once did she say, “I told you so.”
- How she occasionally tried to play match-maker, like during my prep for spinal surgery, by inquiring about my doctor’s marital status on my behalf just moments before I was face-down before him, drooling under general anesthesia in nothing but a hospital gown.
- How she responded the time I told her I hated her with a chuckle and a, “well, I love you, too.”
- How I saw her change patients’ lives in moments with her nurturing smile, compassionate words and healing hugs during her career as a registered nurse.
- How she positively jumps on every project from organizing dinner parties to sanding individual logs for the home she built with my father to the equal duties they held in operating and maintaining their 34-foot boat.
- How she reads every book she can get her hands on with the excitement of a child and then passes that excitement on to anyone who will listen.
- How she always surreptitiously seeped in as the glue that held us all together.
- How, when seeing the different choices I made as a mom, she never pointed out I was doing it wrong, but told me she wished she’d done it my way, never recognizing I could not be the mother I am without her.
- How she taught me about marriage by showing me the evolution of her own that began with a lopsided division of power during the last few months of the life of JFK, to the true team she and my father are today.
- How she made my father dance, and still does.
- How if you ask my dad about the best part of his day, the answer is always, “her.”
- How at the end of every day, the person I want to share my stories with the most is my mom.