A baby asked God, “They tell me you are sending me to Earth tomorrow, but how am I going to live there being so small and helpless?”
God said, “Your angel will be waiting for you and will take care of you.”
The child further inquired, “But tell me, here in heaven I don’t have to do anything but sing and smile to be happy…”
God said, “Your angel will sing for you and will also smile for you.
And you will feel your angel’s love and be very happy.”
Again the small child asked, “And how am I going to be able to understand when people talk to me if I don’t know the language?”
God said, “Your angel will tell you the most beautiful and sweet words you will ever hear, and with much patience and care, your angel will teach you how to speak.”
At that moment there was much peace in Heaven, but voices from Earth could be heard and the child hurriedly asked, “God, if I am to leave now, please tell me my angel’s name.”
God said, “You will simply call her, ‘Mom‘.”
If this conversation happens before all of us are sent from the “vastness” to our angel, what luck had me arriving in the arms of my Mom? What great feat in my past life secured my spot in her heart… how can I explain this karmic happening? Alternatively, there are many times in my life I question what debt I formerly incurred; what harm towards others had I engaged in that would warrant some of the illnesses and challenges that my present life is now repaying? I may never know but, to be clear, a token of appreciation was handed to me that has outweighed all the trials – a guardian like no other to accompany me on my road. To be sure, the karmic scales of Justice were tipped in my favor; with my constant companion leaning her shoulder into mine, bearing the same weight, there is no burden so heavy that I can not endure it.
Today, and each day, I want to celebrate the story of MY Mom. I don’t offer the story as a “how-to” in parenting; you either ARE a Mom, or you are not; having children does not automatically qualify you into this elite group of women. Without question my Mom is the very definition of love in qualities both tangible and unseen. She probably didn’t know it growing up but she was born to be a Mom. She was graciously sent to my Memere, another guardian angel who was asked to serve a celestial purpose on Earth – raise children and grandchildren who know they are loved. My Memere nurtured little Colette and prepared her for the journey of “Raising Rhéa”… and so today, like all days, I give thanks for both women. Unquestioningly, without hesitation, both women exceeded the role of momhood, they surpassed those who acted the part. Rhéa Senior and Colette – they are not mothers; they are Moms.
She never quite leaves her children at home, even when she doesn’t take them along. ~Margaret Culkin Banning
Lately I’ve noticed a trend among mothers: they seem to be wishing – out-loud and frequently – for time alone. “I just need a weekend without (insert child name here)… I just need a break…”. Lest I be seen as unfairly judgmental of those women who yearn from time away from a child, seeing as that I do not have my own, let me tell you this: I have never heard those words from my Mom, never felt that charge in the air, and never seen that look in her eye. I know there has not been one time I can remember where she would have chosen to be away from presence, rather than in it. What happens to the soul of a little one who senses that its mother would prefer, if even for an instant, to be detached from it – physically, emotionally or spiritually? I can’t answer the question. I have never felt “in the way” of my Moms’ fun or her life; I’ve always known in my heart that I was the source of both. You know when you first fall in love with someone and there almost aren’t enough hours in the day for you to spend with them? I sense this is how my Mom felt when I was born, and she spent the rest of my life, all 27 years and counting, affirming it.
My Mom had me when she was 24 years old. When I was that age I was having a fairly important organ surgically removed and spending two weeks in an inpatient Eating Disorders clinic in Philadelphia. I knew nothing. I understood nothing. I was devoid of any direction, saw no clear path. What could I possibly know at 24? What did my Mom know before I showed up? I can’t know for sure but I do know that on February 18th of her 24th year of life, she knew her mission: be Rhéa’s Mom. And she never failed, never took a wrong turn, never rested; she is truly a Warrior Mom… the full-time kind, the every-hour-of-every-day kind, the not-just-when-I-feel-like-it kind. She was never the “I need-a-break” kind.
“A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.”
Sacrifice is a word thrown around a lot. I know mothers who believe their diminishing weekends free from children are a sacrifice. I even know of mothers who purposefully get home a little later from work so that someone else, anyone else, can do the bath and bedtime routine (thus providing a little extra “me” time for mother). Not my Mom, who has convinced me, and I believe it to be absolutely true, that the bath and bedtime routines were the very best part of her day, way back when. So in this world of “time out” parenting where some mothers quietly excuse themselves from the care and raising of their own children, I know I can’t repay my Mom for never allowing me to think, not for even one second, that there was anything more important in this world than my upbringing; that there was anything more paramount than my happiness. To this day, there is no fight she would back down from, no short-cut she would ever take, no true sacrifice too large – there is nothing she wouldn’t do for me. To be clear, there is nothing more important to my Mom than her daughter.
A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts. ~Washington Irving
News reports and psychologists will sometimes say, “don’t be a friend, be a parent”. I am sure that philosophy works for some people; I am sure some children absolutely need the latter. Thankfully, I found both in my Mom. She parented through the spectrum of my best friend so I was guided by both love and procedure. There was trust and teachings and lessons to be learned, as well as responsibilities and consequences, presented always with fairness and respect. Since I felt her to be my very best friend (both yesterday and today), it was (for the most part), hard to “rebel” against the advice and guidance she offered. Not to say that I was perfect, or that she was; not in action anyway, but certainly in pure thought and love. Never have I ever doubted her intention to keep me at peace or her methods to keep me safe.
There is only one time that readily comes to mind if I am asked whether I was every really angry at my Mom. I was 16. She had said that I couldn’t drive the car of a friend who was 17 and had recently earned his license. This was to be my first time riding in a car with someone my age, after having just obtained my own permit. I had been so looking forward to our small road-trip through Malone, sans parents. But when we were about leave and I had asked if I could drive the car, the answer came back “NO.”
I was beside myself with indignation. It was so intense I can still feel a little heat just recalling the story.
Why would she not let me drive that car? My friend had his license, I had my permit… and it was just around the block! When I think about all of this now, and wonder what I would do if I was a Mom, the question more readily morphs into how she ever let me leave the house in the first place. I know she trusted me, and had faith that all would be fine, but her mission – her life’s purpose – was to keep me safe. I was allowed to go, providing that I promised to remain only a passenger, and at no point a navigator. As we walked to the car I knew I was going to break my promise and ask my friend to let me drive as soon as we got out of sight. I “knew” it wasn’t that big of a deal and really wasn’t as dangerous as she made it out to be. We got around the block… then another one, then another. Once the time came to make the decision, I lost the urge to drive. The freedom of riding away, without her, was expansive enough.
“When you were small and just a touch away, I covered you with blankets against the cold night air. But now that you are tall and out of reach, I fold my hands and cover you with prayer.”
-Dona Maddux Cooper
I know my Mom wonders, like all the great ones do, if she did enough? Was she vigilant enough about all the things out there in the world that could harm me? Was the Hirschprungs genetic or environmental or both? What about the Eating Disorder? Was something said or done, something not said, that made me feel anxious or inadequate – was there something she could have done to keep me from the stronghold of Anorexia? What about the MS, now? What has happened here? The answer as to why any of these things have visited my life is complicated, multi-faceted, unknown and most important – irrelevant. The one thing I can say with certainty is this: I don’t know why these things came into my life, but the only thing that got me through them, was her. Not a mother’s love, but her love. It was her proving herself from Day One that no matter what would happen, she would be there. It was her undivided attention. It was her hand-holding and story-reading; her cartoon-watching, celery-and-peanut-butter-making, juice-box-squeezing nourishment. It was her constant and patient listening, her desire to hear each day recapped, with no detail spared; it was the way she asked “what happened today” and listened for as long as it took for the details to emerge and the scenes to unravel. I am exhausted just thinking about how arduous it must have been to hear every detail of say, 7th grade. No, it was not just any mother’s love that got me through. It was her shedding tears at the very sight of my own that made me know I was not ever alone, and that giving up would leave her shattered. Without words, or lectures, I knew that losing the parts of myself that were harmful and rebuilding the remains in an image worthy of being her child was the ultimate goal. I knew, with every move, that she was there. And there is no greater comfort for any of us, than the steadfast presence of a real Mom.
My mother is a poem
I’ll never be able to write,
though everything I write
is a poem to my mother.
My Mom thinks that I have talent and worth, and why wouldn’t she? She has devoted her life to getting me to this point, to adulthood where I am now entrusted with the enormous task of representing myself as the best version of everything she has taught me; a woman in her image. Whenever I question my essence and value, I know that the very best thing I can be, the most I can do with my life, is live in a way that makes other people say, “your Mom did a great job raising you… you must make her so proud.” And I do, I know I do. But what she probably doesn’t know, at least not to the depths that I would hope – is that she makes me brilliantly proud. That, even more than what she has accomplished (so many beautiful, astonishing things) is how she accomplished them; with a strength that I won’t ever know and a grace that I won’t ever exude. She has fought long and silent battles, away from my childish eyes. The realm in which I was loved remained untarnished with any demons she may have fought along the way, and I know there were a few. From where I stood, the world was beautiful, families were beautiful, my house was beautiful, and my life was beautiful. I WAS BEAUTIFUL, because she made me that way.
She brushes it aside and jokes that any talent I possess must have come from somewhere else, some long lost DNA strand or other-worldly heritage. The fact is, I got my talent and vision and words from her. The talent and success I have found along the way come directly from her encouragement; the vision of this beautiful world came from her bright colors and shining light; the words I write come directly from the words she spoke to my heart. It’s not just about trips to the libraries or quiet reading times at home, it goes way back, back to the beginning of me- my creation, my rest in her womb, where her voice sang to me of love and beauty and comfort. I dare say that my words come from a place before my existence, even before my mere suggestion. Along the way through life her heart has been scarred and repaired, healed through personal courage and strength derived from her own Mom, no doubt; she has cried and laughed in the presence of a woman God sent to Earth to keep her safe. We “get things” from our parents and those who raise us, whether we see it or know it. I know, for example, that my Mom used to copy poems and quotes out of books into personal notebooks, just like I did in high school. She was writing affirmations long before I decided to join her; she put pen to paper to describe beauty and wonder – and her hand rests on top of mine every time I form a word on a page. My Mom is my Muse… the source of all inspiration, she is a poet.
“When I stopped seeing my mother with the eyes of a child, I saw the woman who helped me give birth to myself.” -Nancy Friday
We all want confirmation, assurance that our lives mean something; that the mission we were given was understood and delivered with not only the best possible intentions but with the best success. I hope that someday, someone can speak to the essence of my soul and say “You did it. Your mission was a resounding success – no one could have done it better and you should not spend one more minute questioning anything. You can rest, the world is absolutely a better place because you lived and your spirit will never die.” Until that day comes… there is today. So today, with my heart full of joy and appreciation, I turn to my Mom and say…
Mom, you did it. Your mission has been a resounding success. Although your job as my Mom will never end – no one could have ever done a better job raising me. You should not spend one more minute questioning anything. You can rest your mind. I’m OK. My world is absolutely a better place because I was entrusted to your care. I carry you with me at all times and there is no greater comfort to be found.
There is no other way to express my gratitude and love for you, but to say, thank you for my life.
Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What’s that suppose to mean? In my heart it don’t mean a thing. ~Toni Morrison, Beloved