Friday, May 06, 2005

This bud’s for you, Mom

This Sunday is a day to remember the women who raised us, to remind them of our appreciation. If you can’t quite think what Mother’s Day is about (other than a day to sell greeting cards), go outside and find a patch of dandelions. They’re bright, pretty, and cheerful, then they become magic puffball wands to send their seeds out into the world. Seemingly without effort, they multiply. They’re all over the place. No matter how hard people try to find fault with them, they come back year after year, bursts of sunshine laughing out of the earth. They are a favorite among all sensible children. Dandelions are the simplest and most complex, most common and most distinctive, most fleeting bloom and most enduring living thing in the garden. Those hardy, yet unassuming blossoms represent the best of motherhood, the best of womanhood.

As though they were weeds, many mothers are not accustomed to receiving praise. When attention is drawn to them, they become flustered, hoping to find some way to hide again from the spotlight. Unlike me, most of the women closest to me have spent their lives quietly ducking when somebody raises a glass in honor of them. It’s as though they’re afraid of being caught in the act of being themselves, for fear of being weeded out. The funny thing is, these are all very smart, very talented, and wholly marvelous human beings who also excel at being mothers. My two oldest, best friends -- both extraordinarily gifted artists -- have, among their many accomplishments, also raised bright, decent, witty sons I am proud to say I know. Next door to me, another dear friend shares her ability to dream and follow through... and that crosses the yard, as well. There’s my mom’s best friend, too, who has a bright mind, a strong will, and a gentle gift for laughter, and has imbued her own three children -- and her grandchildren -- with the same.

And then there is my mom.

This woman my mother is the poster child for optimism. She gave birth first to my brother, then to me. We were little hellions, when we were doing anything at all. Most sane people would have given up and admitted defeat at the hands of unkind fates. But Mom, with Dad’s cooperation, went ahead and had two more. Her positive thinking paid off with a pair of daughters who wound up being pretty impressive individuals (and one of whom is possibly the most capable and loving mother I’ve ever encountered, which is really saying a lot).

Aside from her optimism (or, perhaps as a result of it), Mom has always had deep reserves of patience, toleration, and the ability to think on her feet when her patience runs low. I could write volumes on this alone, citing chapter and verse. Of course, I’d have to use her computer; mine doesn’t have sufficient memory. In fact, I could spend years penning a paean to my own mother and making her blush. After all, she loves me regardless of my failings. It seems to me, that alone should win her world-class awards. Except that, I’m told there are people even harder to tolerate, whose mothers love them unconditionally, as well. Not that I necessarily believe the stories. There couldn’t be too many underachieving people who grate on others’ nerves, could there? I’d like to think I’m singular at that.

Still, the world is full of wonderful women who had the hope and took the time to raise children in this frightening world, women who sheltered their young ones from those fears to the best of their abilities, women who taught strength by being strong, who did their best for their babies.

Whether your mom teaches you raunchy limericks or took you to your first opera, she’s still the primary influence on your young mind and spirit. It’s an unlicensed, train-as-you-go job. Nobody offers college courses in good motherhood. You get your M.O.M. (Master Of Motherhood) by showing up every day, changing diapers, wiping snotty noses, and serving lima beans even when you know the kinds of faces you’ll get for all your efforts. Every person thinks motherhood is easy until entering into it -- after all, it’s as natural as... well... having a baby. But I couldn’t do it, and I’m not the dimmest bulb out there. All I can do is watch those others in awe and envy, as they make it look like child’s play.

And so, for every woman who has risen to the challenges and the joys of motherhood, this Sunday is her day. I will salute them all, and encourage every child of every age to remember Mom, certainly, with a showering of words, remember, perhaps, with a showering of jewels, remember best with a handful of bright dandelions -- beloved wildflowers of gold.

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