Monday, May 11, 2009

For Mama

You read a lot about mothers in literature and lore. About serene, wise women who dispense worn maxims and are beloved for their famous pie crusts. Or stifled women, who entertain and charm and hold secrets. Or wild, wonderful women who just happened to make terrible mothers- all smoke and scent and leaving.

It might be the times, it might be without the lens of purposeful prose, but when I think of my mother, I believe I am too close to her still to make any sweeping or poetic judgements.

Honestly, the character I relate my mother to most is probably Jill Taylor: the mom from Home Improvement.

Here's a woman who talks loud on the phone, is perpetually annoyed with some project or other of her (exasperating yet ultimately capable and infinitely loving) husband, tries to keep up with her kids' antics, while also always remembering to do what she loves (be it her job, or the time Jill goes back to school).

From a pretty early age, I think I learned to recognize my mother as a woman in the context of the world around us, and not just as Mom. She has generally always worked at least part-time, has always been active in the church community, makes sure to carve out time for friends on a regular basis, and fits into her (huge) extended family in a niche that always allowed me to see her as someone's cousin, a niece, a sister. So often I think our perceptions of our mothers are dominated by our inability to see them as anything other than our mothers.

I hear often that I bear similarities to her (the shape of my hands, my laugh, some other miscellaneous mannerisms) and I see them, too (the way I conduct small-talk, the way I prepare meals). I wonder, when we are not as close- when I move to a different city or the day she eventually passes on (God willing, decades and decades from now), what I will really remember about her. The things I will realize it was she who taught me, and no one else.

I think one of her most wonderful gifts is her ability to use the adversity in her life to benefit others. I have seen her draw on painful and difficult experiences and in turn, offer comfort and hope to people who would otherwise feel desperate and alone. Likewise, she does similarly with bounty in her life, and is wonderful about letting it go to people who need it more.

Mothers' Day at first appears to be a silly holiday, but I suppose any day that makes you reflect on the woman who brought you into the world can't be all bad. Above all, I am thankful that my mother somehow manages to be so normal, but also extraordinary. To raise her children in a stable and healthy environment, while fulfilling her promise to remain married to my father, is a feat in itself. I never grew up for want of anything, and managed not to be spoiled. Despite my observations that she is so much more than a mother, being a Mom might be her best talent.

I am so thankful for that.

What about you? What have you learned from your mothers? What do you admire most about them?

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