Each year I find myself grappling with the reality that Mother’s Day is somewhat of an uncomfortable occurrence. The debt we owe to our mothers is infinite and flows like streams through the most remote corners of our existence. Inasmuch, the gratitude I wish to communicate cannot be encapsulated in a few words of poetry on the inside of an overpriced piece of card paper and we all know that flowers wither usually within a few days of purchase. But I usually buy them anyway, and shuffle like a young boy expressing admiration to his childhood idol.
“Here Mom,” I say, eyes glancing towards the floor. “Thanks … uh…thanks for everything.”
Because the celebration of my mother necessitates much more meaning than these inevitably clichéd gestures indicate. What I am trying to say is much more complicated and stretches onto pages of my life that she has handed to me.
So, Mom, if you’re reading, please know that I want to say thank you for pain of bearing me, the literal physical pain of having another human-being inside your body. Thank you for holding me for the first time, and through many sleepless hours thereafter, for calling me by name with tenderness and love through dark nights and sunny days.
Thank you for showing me how to live in the world around me. Thank you for teaching me that forks don’t belong in electric outlets and, although oddly satisfying, the proper way to deal with an annoying sibling is not to hit them upside the head.
Thank you for teaching me that love is not merely theoretical. Thank you for notes on napkins tucked into my school lunches. Thank you for your smiling face awaiting me at the bus stop each day. Thank you for the band-aids, the Neosporin, the late night hospital runs and stitches. Thank you for a cold rag on my head when I had a fever, homemade soup for a sore throat and holding a bucket for me when I was introduced to the stomach flu.
Thank you for the anchor I called “home” crafted with your tenderness and care then lowered into the turbulent waters of life. Thank you for the reassurance, the calming voice on the other end of the telephone reminding me that no matter what classes I flunked, what employer fired me and what girl dumped me, you loved me all the more.
If you’re reading this, then I want you to know that these are the things I talk about when I talk about you. You gave me more than I could ever recount in words; through your dedication I was granted the very breath of the life that beats in my heart when I hand you some flowers, shuffling nervously and glancing at the floor.
I cannot talk about you without a tone of infinite gratitude; it is this posture of humility and gratefulness that is your greatest gift to me. The gratitude you empowered within me, the little tokens of love with which you decorated my path from infant to adulthood, are snippets of grace that I keep in my pocket as I continue on my journey. They are the blank pages of life laid freely before me.
For you have not merely provided me with sustenance, health, safety and instruction but rather you have given me something much more transcendent than you may have ever known. You provided the pages for a story and showed me how to pick up the pen with which I might craft it.
The pen is love, the ink is gratitude and the story is a journey into something much larger than either of us. All of them you gave to me, like a candle in the dead of winter, like words whispered in dreams. For you went before me then turned and beckoned me to follow. And, like holding the hands of a child tracing his alphabet for the first time, you showed me how to dance around the tragedy, the comedy, the unpredictable, the mundane, the beautiful and the horrific of life, all to the beat of the same blood that pumped through our veins.
And so it is this pen I yield, these words I type not just on Mother’s Day but every day of the year. The insufficiency of my words as I set out still haunts me but I have come to accept that sometimes insufficiency will do. So I embark. And in the shadows of motherhood life’s greatest stories are written; the most magnificent of journeys begin with a knapsack containing a handwritten note printed on a napkin.
And as I continue with this story, I want you to know that I thank you, as much as I know how, I thank you. For gratitude, for love, for joy and care. For everything.