On Mother's Day
It is Mother's Day.
I woke up early because our cat was meowing non-stop, truly whining. Sun beamed through our windows, a bright departure from yesterday's relentless rain. I opened my eyes and stayed in bed, my mind not yet sharp, but in that benevolent, murky place. My man, waking up next to me, said, "Happy Mother's Day."
Thank you, I said.
Finally, I got out of bed. Downstairs, I made my first of many cups of coffee. The girls woke up one by one and hugged me and said those words, too. Happy Mother's Day.
Thank you, I said.
And there they were. The most wonderful homemade cards. Collages with pictures of me, and all of us. I felt myself waking up. My good man went on a pastry run. Came home with my favorite danishes, donuts. I haven't stopped eating them since. My belly is happy and full.
And now. Now I sit at a little desk looking out at the street. The sidewalk is dappled with sun and shadow and I'm thinking of my own mom. A woman who was born and raised in Kansas. One of eight. As a girl, she was sporty and loved to read books. She grew up to be an actress. She met my dad and and they fell in love and they had five little girls. I'm the third.
And none of it was storybook simple. Because no life is. Every life has a rich complexity to it, layers that are known and unknown. But, my goodness, I sit here and there are tears in my tired eyes and I'm thankful.
My childhood memories are happy things.
I remember Mom scooping me from bed in the mornings before school and shepherding me to the TV room where my younger sister Ceara and I would lie on opposite sides of the couch, our bodies side by side under a blanket. We'd watch Lassie and then eat bowls of cereal.
I remember Mom on every single soccer, basketball, softball sideline, my fiercest supporter.
I remember Mom quizzing me for chemistry and biology tests, helping me edit every single paper. She taught me how to write. It took years, but finally it clicked.
I remember Mom and Dad at the head of the wooden dinner table, the delicious smell of Mom's chickpea soup, the candles flickering, their conversations and arguments intelligent, something to mimic one day.
I remember Mom at my graduations, her beauty, her pride.
I remember Mom on that September morning. She called my cell. Babe, a plane just went into the tower. Don't go to class; come home.
I remember Mom the December morning after I met the love of my life in a bar. I was in law school. We ate omelets at our favorite spot. I told her. She smiled, and was full of tough, perfect love. Study for your exams, babe.
I remember Mom at my wedding, tall and statuesque, a vision in her lavender and black custom gown. I remember the toast she gave, her words spare and stunning.
I remember Mom at Dad's memorial service, how she stood on the big stage, the five of us flanking her, and read the words she had written - absolutely gorgeous, absolutely gutting - about, and for, Dad.
I remember Mom holding each of my baby girls for the first time, feeling like I could do this because she had shown me how.
I remember Mom in the front row of both of my book launches, how seeing her there made me feel like I could do it, like I could do anything at all.
I remember endless lunches, all that laughter, the tough talks too, the closeness that comes with devotion and honesty and time.
I remember the December phone call, Mom's voice catching. Her news. The doctor saw something.
I remember the May day, sitting in the oncologist's office, his bright voice. Remission!
I remember the March call. It was back. Another successful surgery. Back to chemo. Round two.
I remember three Tuesdays ago. Sitting with Mom at Sloan-Kettering. She got her chemo and we talked and talked and shared moments of silence. I remember looking up and thinking, This is the strongest woman I know. She will be fine. We will be fine.
I sit here today. Mother's Day. Yes, I am thoughtful. Yes, I am thankful. Yes, I'm full of love and luck, hope and joy. I have three little girls who are my whole world. I have a mom who is smart and strong and showing me what it is to live.
I'm overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by what it takes to parent these beautiful creatures of mine, by what it takes to be a good daughter to the woman to whom I owe most everything, by what it means to live and love and learn in a world that is as beautiful as it is uncertain.
How I begin, how I continue: I eat the pastries. I hug my girls. I sip coffee. I remember and revere and smile. I stare out at the sunshine and in at a soul that has been shaped, will be shaped, by hard stuff and happy stuff. I write words. In an attempt to understand, to uncover. I go to soccer games. I stand on sidelines and cheer my heart out. I welcome a new day. And then another.
And, yes, I think those words again and again, the refrain and heartbeat of this good, complicated, deeply cherished life.
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. And to those for whom this day is difficult because of loss or longing or something else, I'm sending even more love.