Best Mother’s Day Ever
I woke up early today to write. I’d intended to work on my book, but the book can wait a little while. I’m feeling too reflective right now to concentrate on anything besides what it means to be a mother.
I used to separate my role as “mother” from all my other identities – business owner, daughter, sometimes cyclist, writer, school board member. All of the hats I wore seemed to conflict with each other, scrambling to be A #1 on my priority list. But that changed when Ana got sick.
It started with the well wishes and donations that came pouring in from the many different circles of my life. First the front lines swept in – family, friends, neighbors, parents and children from Ana’s school. But then an amazing thing started happening – A client I’d only met in person twice showed up at the hospital with presents for Ana, a few women who I’d cycled with put together a care package for her (filled with lots of nutritious granola bars), gift cards for gas and food poured in from everyone. A school-wide yard sale happened, helping us survive the entire month of October.
And it kept coming. The love, the help, the prayers.
A correctional facility forty miles away put Ana’s picture up on their bulletin board and raised over $2000 for her – they delivered both checks personally to our family and gave Ana a signed t-shirt from all of the officers which she still wears to bed at night.
A supermarket that we used to go to every Wednesday night (as a family) put up Ana’s picture on the cash register and, with the help of everyone who shops there, quietly raised nearly $4000.
A karate instructor who is also a musician rallied the members of his dojo in support of our family – he pulled in all his connections, all of his friends, reached out to our family and put on one hell of a show back in November that raised over $3500.
A childhood friend of Jim’s sent us a very big check.
A best-selling children’s book illustrator drew a picture of Ana and tried to visit her in the hospital to draw for her (he got lost, but he ultimately visited her and her classmates at school).
A woman I barely knew became one of my best friends. She made us quiche and took care of Emily while Ana was in the hospital.
A woman I barely knew became one of my best friends. She brought me mocha and Ana French fries while we were stuck in the hospital (time and time again).
Yesterday, when I took the girls to a rushed lunch at a diner in New Paltz, someone quietly paid our bill and left, without saying anything.
There are so many more examples.
I haven’t been able to reflect or say thank you as much as I want. I didn’t understand how the people in my life – whether they played a big role or a small one, could become the force that holds me up, allowing me to be the mother I’ve always dreamed of being.
It’s heartbreaking that Ana had to go through hell in order for me to realize this. This heartbreak persists even through moments of joy and relief. It’s a burden of motherhood that we cannot perpetually prevent sorrow or pain – as much as we wish we could.
We are given these lives to protect and love and, often, this happens behind closed doors. We make them breakfast in the morning and kiss them good night at night. We match their socks and plan their birthday parties. We watch them grow and hold our breath, hoping that they will someday learn to fly on their own and be happy forever and ever.
If we’re lucky, we never have to hold their hand before surgery or change a surgical dressing, or learn how to flush an I.V. line. But sometimes we’re not lucky, and so we just do it.
Today Ana is home and feeling good. Emily is happy and already awake. She couldn’t wait to give me my Mother’s Day gifts (a hand-made card, a rap song she wrote, and a paper mâché penguin that she made in school.)
I’m not enjoying this day alone, and I’m not taking it for granted. I understand that “mother” isn’t a mutually exclusive role from every other identity I associate myself with. I didn’t get that before – not really. Today I have my penguin, my handmade cards, both my girls home and the knowledge that you’re out there – hopefully planning a great day with your own families. It’s definitely the best Mother’s Day ever.