It has been almost two years since my mother passed away. Last year was the first time since I was a teenager that I did not start planning a week or two beforehand what I was going to do for her on Mother's Day.
The whole Mother's Day present thing started when I was a kid in school. Our teachers would ensure that everyone's moms got a sticky kid-made craft on their special day. As a teenager I tried to come up with gifts that were more original and unique to her.
I made mushroom omelets for Mother's Day lunch and bowls of strawberries and ice cream for dessert. I bought her funky earrings which she loved. I made a purse for her.
When I was a mom myself, we shared our Mother's Day. We lived five minutes away from each other, and her five grandchildren would descend upon her with homemade gifts and cards.
My mother taught me how to be a mom. And I am appreciating, now that I have grandchildren of my own, that she taught me how to be a grandmother. My grandchildren presently are far across the country but we do what we can to span the miles.
Her pattern is the one that guides me. Most of what I have learned about how to be nurturing I learned from her. She spent countless hours over my lifetime, listening, talking, laughing, embracing, reassuring. And that's the reason I can do it for others.
She'd mentioned once that she didn't hear her first name much anymore, it was usually Mrs. Harris or Mommy. She was my best friend, and I wanted her to hear her name, so I called her Ila instead of Mom for many years — until I became a mother myself.
When I was in school, sometimes I had lots of friends, other years there was really nobody. But I always had my mom. When no one else could be counted on, I knew my mother would always be there for me.
I'd storm home after a lousy day at high school and dump my textbooks on the hall table. I'd flounce down in a chair in the living room, where she would be more or less waiting for me. And I'd launch into what a crappy day I'd had.
I hated school, and she was a patient, ongoing release valve for the tension and frustration I contended with. I poured my heart out to her, and she did her best to soothe the pain of adolescence, of my coming of age.
When I and my friends graduated, most of them moved away and I was really alone in my small town. But on any given evening, I could count on a kindred spirit.
My mom and I would get comfortable in the family room, with our cups of coffee. We shared our hearts. Shared our thoughts. The time would fly.
She'd made it possible for a place of intimacy and acceptance, of curiosity and uproarious stupid humor, to emerge and develop over the years.
We built it together but I could never have done it without her. Would never even have known it was possible to have such a place where all the cares and masks could drop off and we could just be us — two people who had each other's backs, who loved each other like crazy.
No matter what else might be going wrong in my life, I always knew that there was someone who loved me, who believed in me. In this world, that is a gift of great value. Is there any greater?
When I was growing up, friends from time to time would tell me their woes and I would unfailingly ask them if they had talked to their moms. Many of them would laugh and ask if I was nuts. Of course they hadn't!
I said, "I would. I can tell my mom anything." They thought I was either very fortunate, or delusional. I wasn't delusional. But I was so lucky to have my mother.
We had an intense relationship and things weren't always harmonious. And at the end of it all, there was not enough time to say goodbye, to say "I love you" one last time.
But what matters is the richness of the time we did have together — more than a half a century of memories, of laughter and tears, of real lives shared.
I hear her in the way I welcome my children, and in the way they issue a greeting when they enter a room. I see her in my own face, and the faces of my kids. The affection and generosity that were her hallmarks are living on.
Happy Mother's Day, Ila — Your presence remains strong in the people you loved so fiercely and who love you back with that same fierceness they got from you.
Visit Jody's website at http://www.ncubator.ca