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I've been looking at all these cute, wonderful ways that people celebrate their mothers. The internet is full of them this week with Mother's Day coming up. Me, I debated over ordering flowers for a couple of days. Then, I spoke to my sister to check what she's doing. My husband suggested I get on the ball or I'd end up placing an apologetic phone call the day of. Every idea, every gift just seems so.... ridiculously inadequate. I mean, geez, how do you thank a mother? What can one possibly give to express the deep well of gratitude for what these women have done for us? What gift can you purchase that can make her understand your profound appreciation?

Nothing. There is nothing that can repay that. I know it and you know it. I mean, I kind of knew once I became an adult  that she was the force behind my desire to not waste my life. But I didn't know how she had saved me, a million times, saved me, until I became a mom myself. Now, hardly a day goes by that I don't think about her and all the little moments she mothered me, loved me, like no one else ever could.

My Mom
The first memory I have is sitting at home with her while my brother and sister were in school. Nothing special going on. We're just in the living room. She is watching TV and I am playing. But embedded in that memory is the feeling that my world orbited around her. She is everything. She is pretty and smart and I am her daughter. I look up to her.

One of my favorite things about her is her amazing ability to remember all the minute details about my friends that I told her after school and on the weekends. My conversations with her about boys and friends were filterless. I had no reason to lie because she never gave me cause to doubt her love.  She knows the names of everyone. She remembers who they have dated. She knows their personalities. All the friends from middle school, all the Del Aires I sang with in high school. Her ability to recall the daily drama of my teen years let me know she is listening when I talk. 

Once, sitting in the car outside our church, she asks me how things are with the boy I had been crushing over for years. I was 15 at the time. As always, I tell her my concerns. She tells me he might never come around and somehow, because she says it so factually, with such calm, that I am fine. I think to myself, She's right. I love this person who might never love me back and I'll survive that. She had that power, and she used it so well, I rarely felt lectured or dismissed.

A favorite pastime of my mom's that I love is driving through gorgeous neighborhoods and day dreaming of the lives inside. Or better, looking at neglected or dilapidated homes and imagining the potential. To this day, I continue our hobby via Zillow, but no one can see what a home can be better than my mom. What some women can do with food, she can do with an empty house that "needs a little TLC". 

My mom was stern with us kids. She had a low tolerance for bullshit and expected us to have great manners too. I don't know how many times I was told to cross my ankles or say thank you or chew with my mouth shut, but I quickly learned it was more often than most kids I knew. My brother, sister and I, if anything, were known for being polite, even when we thought we were rebelling. Sometimes I felt my mom must have been from an aristocratic household for all we were taught about politeness and respect. But that wasn't so. Her strictness stemmed from her own survival instincts as the daughter of a single mother. My grandmother was a piece of work with her pantsuits and long stemmed filtered cigarettes. She had a mouth like a sailor (must be where I get it) and told tales like one too. But mom was the calm to her crazy, the learned voice of reason. 

No one really told me I was like my mom while I was growing up. I saw us as opposites because I wasn't girly and had dreams I thought were too big for her to understand. I thought of myself as someone who would not be limited by marriage or tradition or children, the way I mistakenly thought she had been. Ours has been a rocky relationship at times, especially in my teens when I struggled to find my footing as a young woman who knew that being born a man would have made my choices so much easier. But it was my mother who convinced me that being a strong woman was an asset. She taught me to listen politely, but she also taught me to speak up when I had something to say. When she walked out on her job as a mortgage loan officer for a major bank because she hated it and hated what it did to her, our financial future was uncertain. But her bravery planted a seed of courage in me. It taught me that to crawl is understandable, but to leap into the unknown is sometimes the better move. 

As I got older and moved out, my favorite times with my mom have become those rare occasions when we get together for coffee at a cafe just to talk. She also loves art and music and we attended some galleries and shows in my 20's. She is the best person to have at your show if you're an artist because she has nothing but wonder and appreciation for creative people. We can stand before the same painting or hear the same music and, inevitably, she will see or hear something I did not. At the Matisse/ Picasso show in Ft. Worth my mother saw the friendship between the artists that I did not and explained it to me.

It took me about 36 years to learn that being a mother is the job of a lifetime, a role far more critical to the future of humanity than an other career path I attempted up to this point. The very first and most important influence on any persons life is the one who raised them, the person who changed diapers, laid out clean clothes and enforced manners. If our fathers are our rock, our mother is the sun, the 1st point of reference for our journey. Because I know myself, and I know my family, I now see what an incredible success my mom is. We did not make things easy on her and yet, here we are.

If you know me well, you can probably see by what I have written here how wrong I was when I thought I am not like my mom. I see it all the time now on a daily basis. I see it in my relationship with my own children, especially my daughter when she asks my opinion and then argues against it. I understand that she is not testing me, she is testing herself, holding her own thoughts to the light, my light, and examining each bit. She is deciding who she is and hoping that who she is will please me. 

I see our similarities in my desire to make life easier for any stranger I meet, especially mother's of babies or toddlers. Just recently my sister and I were joking about having become "that lady" who talks to strangers, especially children. That lady who approached you at in the frozen section of Costco to tell you your kids are so sweet? That's my mom... or my sister... or me. That sympathy card or email you got from the person who you didn't even know still thought of you? It was her. She never forgot you and she meant every word. Our mom taught us that it is never wrong to say you care, never too late to say you are sorry and there are not too many "I love you"s.

If I can be half the mother to my kids that my mom was to me and my siblings, they will learn from everything I do and say and they will love me because of it, mistakes and triumphs equally included. 

I don't take my job as a mom lightly. Maybe that is because I see what it means now, finally, and I feel every day how much my mom means to me. Flowers cannot begin to express my thanks and one day a year is nothing compared to her lifetime of care and effort. But I will say it anyway.  I love you, mom. Thank you for everything.  I get it now. I really do.

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