Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

It is the morning of Mother’s Day 2013. We have a dozen people coming over for brunch, and that tomato and cucumber salad is not going to chop itself, but I have to write this post.

The Gruffalo and I have six adult children between us, yet no grandchildren. This is a fact that I bring up now and then to Kage, BeanBeanMoreBean, Smallest of All, The Mogul, Gandhi and Matisyahu, especially after I have spent time around a baby or a toddler. I am terribly subtle about it—a quick text to all six that reads only “GRANDCHILDREN!!!” is an example of my restraint in this area.

Despite my gentle teasing, though, I do not want anyone (my kids or anyone else’s kids) to have children before they are completely ready to do so. Parenthood is unrelenting hard work, and it never, ever ends. Even when you are totally prepared, you are never, ever ready. To paraphrase Debra Winger’s character in 'Terms of Endearment': As hard as you think it’s going to be, you end up wishing it was that easy.

With that in mind, I have to salute the Moms in my life before I start preparing brunch.

First of all, here’s to women who become mothers without raising a child. Both of my sisters, Barf and KK, have become mothers to adult children (and, thence, grandmothers--grrrrr!) through two completely different sets of circumstances, and they have done so with admirable grace and total commitment. Spending time with an infant is delicious, and women who step into motherhood do not get to begin their demanding role with this joyful interval. And, as I mentioned above, parenthood never, ever ends. Just because a child has become an adult does not mean that the challenges of mothering that person come to an end. With adulthood there are new and unthinkably complex issues for grown children and their parents to navigate. I raise a mimosa to women who willingly step into mothering adult children who they had no part in raising.

And here’s to my Mom. She is, as anyone in the family will tell you, magical. When my father was intermittently unemployed during my childhood, she somehow managed always to have money set aside for the necessities and the silly little luxuries that are vital to teenagers, like the perfect shade of light blue nail polish to match a home-made middle-school graduation dress. Even more importantly, she always had the time to make the dress and the time to drive around to find said blue nail polish. (Note to anyone younger than 40: in the 1970’s, you could have any color of polish you wanted as long as it was red or pink.)

Besides her money- and time-management skills, Mom has an uncanny ear for languages. When my sisters and I learned Spanish, Mom was always able to completely understand what we were saying. She could only answer in English, but our plans to speak Spanish in order to keep secrets from her were for naught. The same phenomenon occurred when my sisters and I resorted to Double-Dutch, a made up language that thwarted all of our middle school teachers but was no match for Mom.

In the kitchen, Mom is a wizard. If she tastes a dish she is able to deconstruct it and re-create it with eerie precision. She reads cook books like I read novels and she is always coming up with something new, while retaining all of the old favorites in her repertoire. She is also able to improvise brilliantly. Two words: Cheesy potatoes. Or, going back several years, a treat that prompted a neighbor to call one Saturday morning to ask “How do you make that #@$%& melted cheese on toast?”

My sisters and I were the recipients of all of this love, attention and cheese, as were all of our friends. Mom must have fed a regiment of kids when we were growing up, again doing so on an impossibly tight budget. She baked non-stop for weeks prior to Christmas and Easter, then distributed boxes of cookies to neighbors and friends and the priests at our parish. One of her springtime specialties, butterfly cookies, always caused a small, decidedly un-Christian scuffle in the rectory when she dropped them off.

And, although this is an incredibly long and complicated story that I will save for another blog post, Mom is also one of those women who stepped into parenting an adult child. The adult child is her own first-born. This puts her in yet another category, women who give birth to a baby knowing that the child will be raised by another woman. These are certainly mothers who deserve recognition today, too; women who make motherhood possible for someone else.

This entry has gone on longer than I planned and the brunch prep must begin now, but not before I raise a Pimm’s cup to Mom, a terrific mother and one of the bravest women I know.

Feliz Dia de las Madres, Mamacita, Itheguy lutheguve yahthegoo!

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