One year ago this morning, I sat with my mother at a table at Denny’s and ate a “last supper” of French toast and orange juice. I knew I would be going in for a c-section that evening (my first planned one; the others were emergencies) and I wouldn’t be able to eat for a while. I don’t remember what we talked about. Most likely ME since that’s my favorite topic of discussion. Or perhaps my wonderful kids and husband – my second through fifth favorite topics.
It was my mom’s birthday too and just the fact that she spent the whole day with me (and later with my kids while Ken and I went to the hospital) tells you something about the generous kind of person she is. She shared her birthday with all of us and now she gets to share it every year with her granddaughter. We thought it fitting to give Nora her grandmother’s name. As soon as she gets old enough to understand its significance, I plan to begin telling Nora daily that she’s got quite a name to live up to. “No pressure or anything honey, but your grandma is a saint.”
My mother deserves sainthood for the sheer fact that she raised 9 children and emerged with her sanity intact. Not only that but I think she did a fairly good job of it. We’re a creative, intelligent, ethical bunch if I do say so myself. The only thing I can hold against my mother is that she set a standard too high for me to reach. I can’t begin to list her many strengths and talents. Humility being one of them, she would probably be the first to say that she’s not a great cleaner or finisher of projects, but who really needs to eat off their kitchen floor anyway? (And Mom, even if you had gotten all those powder jackets sewn, they would still have gone out of style by the next year, right?) My mother taught me to make the most of the gifts God gave me and to work hard to make up for the weaknesses he gave me too. For years, she drove me back and forth to dance and gymnastics classes, never once suggesting that I lacked a graceful bone in my body.
My mother taught how to make killer peanut butter cookies. The trick, by the way, is to undercook them just enough that they stay soft as they cool. We had a smiling sun-shaped magnet on our fridge and instead of doing the standard criss-cross fork pattern on the tops of the cookies, we’d press the magnet into the dough balls before baking them and they’d come out of the oven with sun impressions still showing. I kid you not, they won awards at the county fair, these soft, smiley-faced cookies. My mom is the most creative person I know. She’s an artist through and through, never content with the ordinary, even when it came to a batch of cookies.
Maybe it’s stretching things, but I can’t get the metaphor of impressions out of my mind. In so many good ways, my mother has left her mark on me. She has molded me and given me standards (yes unattainable, but inspiring nonetheless) to live by. Her kindness, her grace in the face of stress, her unconditional love for her children: I hope these impressions stick with me as I develop as a mother myself. I don’t think a day goes by that I am not struck with wonder: how on earth did my mother do it???? (And I might add: how did she do it with 9 kids in tow and on a teacher’s salary and with cloth diapers and without Ibuprofen?) The process of canonization requires the candidate for sainthood to have performed at least two miracles. My mom worked several a day for 30 years.
I love you Mom. Happy Birthday. I hope Nora turns out half as cool as you.