Mother’s Day 2012 – For Mary Jane

Today is my first Mother’s Day.  I’ve only been a mother for 20 days, but I’m already starting to understand what all the hype is about.  When my daughter was born, I felt the biggest wave of emotions, disbelief and love.  It was pretty spectacular, and every day since has been a dream come true.

My own mother has always, always, always made me feel like a blessing.  For as long as I can remember she has reminded me of how badly she she wanted to have me.  She got pregnant with my sister easily, but miscarried six times over the next 8 years.  Needless to say, when she got pregnant with me and it worked out, she was excited.  After I was born she spent night after night rocking and pacing the floors with me, showing me the love and comfort that only a mother can give to her newborn.  Once when I was a tiny baby, a hurricane hit our town.  My sister and dad slept like rocks through the storm, while she sat awake with me and rocked and spoke softly to a wide eyed little baby while thunder shook the house.

She followed her intuition and picked me up when I cried, meaning I pretty much never laid down by myself as a baby.  Doctors told her to let me cry it out, but she felt something in her gut and would hold me each night no matter how tired she may have been.  Later she learned that there was something wrong with my ears causing a lot of pain any time I was horizontal.   Sure enough, once I had surgery she was able to put me down without all the fussing.  She’d known all along that her baby was hurting and not just spoiled.  What must that have been like, to have to hold a baby upright all those nights before my ears were fixed and to have to hear my scream if I laid horizontal for just a moment?  Remember this was before the days of Nap Nannies and swaddling and fancy baby tools to help induce sleep.  If I slept, it was in her arms.

When I was a small child, she took me to lunch once a week, just the two of us.  It was our special time and during that time I didn’t have to share her attention with my other siblings.  In middle school, she’d reward me for making good grades by giving me a “free day” every quarter.  She’d let me call in sick to school and we’d spend the day doing whatever I wanted, just the two of us.

She always told me I was beautiful.  She also encouraged me to be independent and wear what I wanted.  For years I was a greasy, stringy-haired, acne covered kid who might as well have been colorblind based on the outfits I’d put together!  If I look back at old class pictures, I see myself sitting next to smaller, more petite, clear skinned girls with perfect braids and ponytails and clothes that actually fit and coordinated.  There was a pretty vast difference between how cute they were and how funny looking I was!  But you know what, I’d have never known it, because my mom said I was beautiful and I believed her.  I once gained 20lbs over a summer because I was out of town and living next to an ice cream parlor.  (I swear I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I ate a banana split every single night for 6 weeks.)   It literally did not hit me until I couldn’t zip my pants that I had gained so much weight so quickly.  Rather than put me down for it when I cried to her that I was embarrassed to return to school, she gently told me that if I felt like I needed to lose weight she would be happy to try and cook healthy meals for me.  But, she told me, “I think you look great…you’re beautiful and healthy.”

Mom told me three wise sayings.  The first was the Golden Rule, “Treat others as you’d like to be treated.”  I can’t tell you how many times she said those words to me, particularly through elementary and middle school when little girls can be sassy to one another.

The second saying she always taught was “kill with kindness.”  During the second grade I became prey to a “mean girl” in the classroom who would often make fun of me.  I’d try to fight back with equally hurtful words but it never worked.  Once I finally confided in my mom, she told me to “kill her with kindness.”  The next day at school, the mean girl went on another tirade.  Instead of fighting back, I did as my mother instructed and said something nice to her.  She was confused and said another mean thing, to which I responded with another compliment.  I still remember the frustrated look on the girl’s face when she stammered, “Lola… stop!”  She never picked on me again.  I was amazed!  I thought my mother must be a genius.

The third little pearl of wisdom that my mother always told me was the “Ten Year Rule.”  If it’s not going to matter in ten years, then stop stressing about it.  This has always helped me keep things in perspective.  I went to a pre-college program in NYC for a semester during the summer before my senior year of high school.  I begged and begged my mother to send me her new video camera so that I could film my friends and I having fun in the city.  She refused to send it for weeks, telling me that it was very expensive and she felt like I would lose it.  Finally, the last week of the program, she gave in and mailed it to me.  I was SO excited to film my last days of the program.  The day I was scheduled to go home I hailed a cab and when it parked I grabbed all of my things and stepped out onto the sidewalk.  The cab pulled away and sped back into the busy street… just before I realized that the camera was still in the back seat.  There was nothing that could be done – it was GONE!  I’ll never forget admitting to mom on the phone an hour later that I had indeed lost her camera.  I remember expecting her to be furious, but instead she surprised me.  She sighed and said, “Oh it’s fine darling.  That lost camera won’t matter in ten years.  I’ll just be glad when you’re home.”  This morning I was being clumsy and almost knocked her brand new laptop onto the floor.  I sort of gasped and grabbed it just before it crashed onto the floor.  “Wow Mom, that would have been terrible” I said.  Without missing a beat she just sort of looked at me and said, “Eh, it would have been okay.  It would have been a Ten Year Rule – the laptop wouldn’t have mattered in ten years.”  I tell you, she really does practice what she preaches.

I’m lucky.  Not everyone has a mother like mine.  I’m blessed to have her each and every day.  Now that I have my own daughter, I hope I can always remind her of the things my mother taught me.  I hope I always teach her to be kind above all other things.  I hope I always make her feel beautiful.  I hope I teach her what matters in life and what isn’t such a big deal.  I hope I spend enough quality time together doing things that bring us closer and make her a confident young lady.

I guess I just hope I hold a candle to Mary Jane.



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