I haven’t really celebrated Mother’s Day on the Sunday everybody said I should for a few years. Even though I’ve purchased things for my son so he could learn the habit of celebrating his mother, of praising her for her sheer wonder and generosity and life. Sundays, because of my work, usually mean that my attention cannot be spent on my mom and my godmother. So I appoint time to do that around the holiday.
And, in truth, I have acknowledged the day by trying to reach them and a few of the other mothers in my life, the women who have birthed something like love in me, because they have changed me, and I call or contact or think about them because I cannot forget them. Plus, I’m one of those people who hate to do things on holidays. I’m fond of a consistent love ethic. If my mama doesn’t know I love her every month, there’s nothing unique about May.
Still, I’m thinking about women in general and about my mothers in particular. Of course, my mama stands in a class that’s lonely for the esteem I give her. As I read this week, we are all only given one. But I’ve been blessed with many mothers: The amazing women who have given me something, who have let me see their lives, who have taught me, and who have given of themselves until I realize what it means to be large and full and generous and kind.
So I want to write in memory of you, women and you, mothers of mine. You know who you are.
I write to thank you…
For visiting me those six weeks after my birth, saying things to me to make me eat even though the doctors were unconvincing and for your taking me home a day or two before Christmas and making all my childhood Christmases special.
For saving me from drowning that day in the Lake and for always being a fierce protector (and more than a sister) since then.
For making me do my homework, for expecting me to accomplish, and for being gentle while I did it, all because you knew what was ahead and because you saw a splendid future.
For reading to me until I learned to love the sound of a woman’s voice more than I loved the music down in my soul, until I knew how to learn, and so that I could become a reader and lover of learning and giver of truth and knowledge.
For teaching me to get receipts when I purchased things from the corner store because young black men couldn’t assume the privilege of walking out of those doors while drinking a pop in the city of Chicago.
For cooking for me, for washing my clothes, for wiping my head with a cool clothe or picking me up when I fainted those two times before school and that one time on the kitchen floor when I was home from college. You brought me back to life more times than I can recall; you showed me how to slow down when I moved.
For showing me how to kiss and hug and hold and stare and smile because each of those tender gestures was both an expression and an ingredient of love.
For singing to me, for letting me sing to you, and for the appreciation you created in me for doing something wonderful for God and not only for myself.
For telling me stories, yours, mine, and other peoples until I could begin to scratch at the magic of making lives out of words and images from lines that snapped.
For making it normal in my mind to be kind, normal to take care of people who had no place to live, normal to feed everybody when you had the money, and when you didn’t.
For showing me how to pray and ask God for things that I wanted and for things that other people wanted and for being a consistent, gracious instructor in the ways of Mystery. I probably can’t give a higher compliment.
For the bad choices you made, the ones you didn’t hide from me, even if we didn’t talk about them because they made me see that as musical and seamless and spotless as you appeared when you made life happen, you were still human too.
For telling me things I really needed to hear about myself, for keeping some things I thought I needed to hear to yourself, and for giving me space—even too much at times—to get it together.
For forgiving me for not writing more in this remembrance.