Friday, May 9, 2014

Another Hallmark holiday, right?

Very few holidays are more exquisitely complex for me, or generate as much emotion in me, than Mother’s Day.

I get teary because I know in my heart that to be called “Mommy” is the greatest gift God will ever bestow on a woman. Whether you gave birth as a scared teenager or a single mom or a happily married wife; whether you used a surrogate or IUI or IVF or prayer; whether you adopted or fostered or raised a family member’s child, you worked to get that title and, by virtue of having it, you have been touched by an almost indescribable and permanent love.

If you know me, you know how I feel about my children. They are, simply, my heart. They inspire giant love and awe and frustration and laughter and I wouldn’t change one single thing about either one of them.

But Mother’s Day goes beyond those two little ones I’m lucky enough to have.

Mother’s Day is my mom, eight years gone, who taught me to go to church and to use proper manners and to avoid chewing gum in public and to tell dirty jokes with panache and to choose the right fork and to make perfect crème brulee and to always, under all circumstances, hand write a thank-you note.

Mother’s Day is my mother-in-law, who taught me that you’re never too old to float leaf boats down a creek or play sardines with enthusiastic grandchildren or sit on a deck and count stars. She taught me about vegetable gardening and flowers and hummingbirds and orange-juice cake. She taught me that a mother’s love is available to anyone who needs it, and that it doesn't run out, even if you get in a fight with her son.

Mother’s Day is my sister, who raises two boys as a single, hardworking mom. She does it with humor, optimism, faith and lots of wine. She has her hands full all of the time, but never hesitates to reach one of those hands out to me when she thinks I need it.

Mother’s Day is my three sisters-in-law, some of whom needed miracles to have babies and some of whom needed miracles to agree to marry one of my brothers. I am bound to these three women forever; we are part of a completely dysfunctional, totally insane and unconventional family that makes every event one to remember, for better or for worse. We drop by each other's houses, attend countless happy hours together, brag about our kids to each other, live through drunken family Secret Santa exchanges, host each other's families and keep quiet about years of inside family jokes.

Mother’s Day is the friends and neighbors I’ve met through my children; the ones who drop off flowers or invite me over for coffee or text me a joke to put on the kids' lunch napkins or pour a glass of wine at a playdate pickup. They’re the friends I didn’t even know I needed, and now they’re the ones I can’t live without.

Mother’s Day is the friends I have had for so long I almost need a calculator to count the number of years. We studied for high school exams together, skipped school together, attended proms and football games together. We visited each other in college and went on vacation together and served as bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. We held each other’s newborns and have shared parenting advice and struggles for nearly 16 years. These are the speed-dial friends that make time and distance apart evaporate with a simple, “Hey, what’s up?”

Mother’s Day is the teachers who, I swear to you, treat my children like their own. It’s the teachers who have offered hugs and jokes and giant smiles; it’s the teachers who have made my children love to learn.

So for me, Mother’s Day is about being thankful for my own children. It’s also a silent (or, in this case, written) tribute to all those women who touch my life in a million little ways and make me a better mom, a better wife, a better sister, daughter and friend.

Cheers, ladies. And happy, happy Mother’s Day to each and every one of you. I love you all. And Mom, you're still here, every day, and I see you everywhere I turn. I miss you.

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