Thinking about mothers today. Of all varieties. Mostly the ones who do the absolute best that they can for their children, however far short of 'ideal'--whatever that might be--they may fall. Or think they fall. They may have a bad day or two or twelve or hundred (God knows I have), but each time they get up the next morning and try their damnedest all over again. How much more can we ask??
I've had some very special mothers in my life.
My mother's mother. In some ways, even most ways, a hard woman, but her life made her hard and she was bound and determined to make our lives (her daughters' and granddaughters') better and easier than hers had been. No substitutions or arguments were accepted, no sacrifice was too great for her to make for those whom she loved so dearly. And she loved us dearly, no question about it.
My father's mother. Inveterate card player, highly irreverent sense of humor, presider over one seriously crazy Irish-American household. Baker of the best chocolate pies in the Midwest. Descended from people who came over a few boats after the Mayflower, sweet- and innocent-looking (with color-changing fairy eyes) but sharp as a tack and nobody's pushover! Best mother-in-law in the world other than mine.
My mother-in-law. I don't have a good picture of her, unfortunately. She came (with my father-in-law) to watch the kids this past weekend while we were in North Carolina. They take the kids to all their (many, many) activities while we're gone. Cook multiple meals so everyone is happy--we tell them not to do this but they do anyway. Get them outside with walks and bikes and park trips. Bring special treats for them when they come. Play endless board and card games with them. And when we got home today, the sheets and towels they had used had already been washed. The guest bed was put back together. The laundry was all done. Himself and I had joked that they would be waiting at the door for us, bags already packed to go, since the weekend was a crazy one for them. But no: when we arrived, my MIL cooked dinner--a very nice one--so I wouldn't have to do it on Mother's Day after a long car trip. And made dessert. And helped me clean up the kitchen before they left. And, not incidentally, has been the soul of kindness to me since the first moment I met her, which was before her son and I actually started dating.
And last, but most certainly not least, my own mother.
Isn't that an awesome face my little brother is making in that picture?? And I have no idea what in the world I'm wearing here, but it was the '70s, so please cut us all some slack.
This woman has a core of steel. We moved countries repeatedly when my brother and I were small. While we went to our international schools and Dad to his English-speaking workplace, she learned to buy groceries in Tokyo and deal with house staff in Bangkok and negotiate with plumbers in Arabic and drive on the 'wrong' side of the road in Hong Kong. All while volunteering at our schools and teaching CCD and baking cupcakes for class parties and helping us with homework and not letting us get away with giving anything less than our absolute best at school. When we got older and made sports teams, if we had a game, she was there. Biting her knuckles when we got hurt, yes, but she kept coming. A band or choir concert? Any kind of performance at school? She was there. Helping me pick out prom dresses a year in advance because they didn't sell them in Hong Kong and we had to bring them from the States each summer? Yep. Helping me deal when the guy I was dating at the time moved after every.single.cottonpicking.year of high school?? Yep.
My absolute best Mom story?? Would have to be the time (a Friday or Saturday night, I forget which) I was out with a girlfriend as a freshman in high school. Both of us were dating juniors at the time, and my friend had VERY protective parents. Somebody brought wine coolers to the beach, where we were all hanging out. I had a sip or two, my friend got bombed. I brought her home to my house, since I knew her folks would never let her out the door again if she went to her house. Got home and belatedly remembered that Mom and Dad were having a dinner party that night! Mom got up from the table, helped me get my friend cleaned up and to bed, then went back to her party like nothing ever happened. She understood that I was trying to do the right thing, and she had my back. She's had my back for my entire life. The family joke is that Dad thinks I'm an angel, while Mom knows I'm not an angel but loves me anyway. Or because. I have not, for one second, ever doubted that she loves me.
I'm a lucky woman. I hope to someday be the kind of mother that these mothers have all been to me.
Happy Mother's Day.