Happy Mothers Day

May 8 2011

For Mothers Day, I got a kid with stitches.  Right on his little 4-year-old forehead, a neat little zipper line of bravado, which he proudly sported.

I’ll tell you more about the stitches this week, but for today and always, the most important part of that introduction is:  “For Mothers Day, I got a kid.”

At this time, 14 years ago, I was recovering from my third miscarriage.  I was bereft.  Empty.

I wondered if I’d ever be a mother.

And, as much as I mock myself now for having an overwhelming five children, I don’t, not even for one day, take my bounty for granted.  Maybe for one minute.  Maybe for an hour or six.  But a whole day is right out.

I grabbed Abby, my eldest and almost-teenager, this morning and gave her an unwelcome, barely tolerated squeezy hug, and I held her face in my hands and thanked her for making me a mommy.  She grunted something unintelligible.  I should probably be irritated, but all I can think is, “Hooray!  I have an almost-teenager who grunts unintelligibly at me.”  And I’m grateful.

Mothers Day is a mix.  It’s a jumble.

I’m desperately thankful for the privilege of being my kids’ mama.

I’m terribly sad for my adopted kids’ birth moms, for their loss, and for my kids’ loss of them.  Adoption is necessarily bittersweet, or sweetly bitter, and it forces me to acknowledge loss in ways I don’t have to do as a biological mother.

I don’t forget the angst and struggle of becoming a mother.  And there was angst and struggle both ways I did it.

I’m also poignantly aware that this day is full of grief for so many experiencing infertility, the loss of a child, or the loss of a mother to death or to life.

And because I’m aware of those feelings, I want to just take a minute to nod in the direction of those of you for whom today includes some measure of pain.

I also want to tell you about my mom, who I love very much.  And with whom my relationship hasn’t always been easy, much to the shock of many who know my mother as gracious, kind, generous and saintly.

Here’s the truth about my mom as I see it.

My mother is not a saint.

She’s a real woman with real dreams who’s parented with incredible beauty and grace, and, sometimes, not so beautifully.

My mom taught me by example how to say, “I’m sorry,” which is a skill I’ve used way more than I ever wanted to or thought I would.  And a skill that I value infinitely more than I would have valued a perfect mother.

I’m grateful to my mother for her imperfections.  For her desire to expose them.  For her ability to live into them.  And even to embrace them with glee.  My mom’s imperfections make her human, and tangible, and lovely.

I’m glad my mother did things that required my forgiveness.  Because someday I hope my kids will also forgive me my motley mistakes, and I can think of few greater family legacies than forgiveness.

I’m proud that my mom is blind to the foibles of her children.  It’s one of her greatest gifts.  In the face of contradictory evidence, my mama has unwavering faith in me.  May I be so blind with my children.

I understand, the way I understood from the first moment I held Abby in my arms in a run-down house in Saigon, Vietnam, that my mother would die for me, and she’d be both proud and grateful to do it.  No matter how old I get, I live in the knowledge that there are people who would lay down their lives for me.

My mom did a lot of things right.  But she’s no saint.  She’s not perfect.

She’s better.

She’s Mom.  And she’s mine.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom.

I love you.