To My Mother

When you ask me whom I admire, there is always one person who first comes to mind. The answer is easy, but the explanation is lengthy. Nonetheless, I’d like to attempt it. I never knew anything but love from my mother, starting with my very first memories of her. They are hazy, distant recollections.

I am 4, maybe 5, and I wrap my arms around her waist, burying my face in her stomach, breathing in the scent that is hers only. She tells me she loves me as she gently pulls me to her. We both pull each other in, a hug that is not just meant to convey love now, but love forever.
     I sit at the kitchen table. I am 6 years old and eating brown sugar cinnamon oatmeal. My mother stands behind me, braiding my damp hair into tight plaits. My belly and heart are full.
I am crying in the middle of a basketball court. At age 7, I have just committed my first foul in my Biddy Basketball league. I am swimming in my oversized pink tee shirt. (I have “needed” an adult medium for way too long.) I look to the bleachers, where my mother sits, watching me intently, needing to comfort me, but also needing to let me handle it myself.
Mothers Day 1997. I am 10 years old and cooking. I hope my mother is still asleep. I set the table with her breakfast: juice, pancakes with syrup and butter, bacon. I smile at it, hoping this will please her, knowing that nothing I do will make her love me more.
 I am 13 and angry. I am a good girl, compliant, but even the best of us have our grumpy days. I am easily annoyed with everything and thus easily annoying to my whole family. I slam the doors. I don’t dare to utter curse words. I sob, thinking I am alone. But I’m not.
     I have dozens of volleyball matches, all around west central Indiana. As a junior, I still play junior varsity. I am not impressive, but my mother shows up at almost every single game. She, her presence, is unchanging and stable and I come to rely on it.
I am 18 years old and shaking in my high heels. I am speaking to my high school classmates at graduation. It is 5 minutes; it is an eternity. The speech passes and I do not mention the people who got me here. But they know. I know they know. I smile at them as I am handed my diploma, signifying the end of childhood and the beginning of so much else.
   It is steaming hot in Kentucky in August. We all sweat as we stand in the hot sun, determined to make the most of the last few minutes. My father cries unabashedly, but she holds out. Thank God she holds out. I am fragile, about to fall over the ledge of homesickness, but her stoicism keeps me there, safe. We say one last goodbye and I am alone, but not. It takes 3 weeks before I break down and cry.

 I graduate on a clear day in May. She wears a sundress and a smile. We picnic in the meadow, eat strawberries and drink wine. I am wearing a sash to give to the person who made it possible.  There is no doubt whom that will be.
     I am in another country. I walk the historic streets, drink fantastic red wine, and miss her. I think of her when I read something funny, when I need to cry, when I don’t know if my shoes match my outfit. I look in the mirror and see her.

Thank you, dear mother, for giving me life, for giving me the strength to be alone, for letting me know that I am not, indeed, alone. I love you.

Dear Spain, Love Me

Dear Spain,

I like you; I really do. But I have some things, let’s call them issues, that I’d like to clear up. Ya know, before things get too serious.

No, I don’t …

  • … like hamburgers or hot dogs.
  • … eat them daily.
  • … shop at the Gap often.
  • … know any celebrities.
  • … live near NYC or LA.
  • … watch football more than once a year.
  • … have a really expensive car.
  • … think the Spanish/European system is inherently better than the US one.
  • … like jamón that much.
  • … like seafood that much.
  • … eat meat at every meal.
  • have a well thought out opinion on your government that I’d be willing to share in front of a classroom.

Yes, I do …

  • … know how to cook.
  • … eat lots of vegetables.
  • … exercise daily.
  • … want to live in the US.
  • … most likely speak Spanish better than you speak English.

Thank you, and have  a super day!



Dear Mom

When my mom was my age, she had a kid. That kid, you see, was me. Is me, actually. Thinking about this boggles my mind, really. I can’t imagine anyone entrusting me with a baby, let alone having one myself. Sometimes I wonder if there is some secret book you read to become a mom because, if I’m honest, it seems like the hardest damn job in the whole world. My mom would agree, but I’m also sure she’d say it’s the most rewarding one, too.

My mom’s just like that.

My mom is the kind of mom that got up everyday at 5:55 a.m. to get ready before us, so she could make us oatmeal or help us finish last-minute projects. She’s the kind of mom who attended every single sporting event we were in (and still does). She’s the kind of mom who flew to Spain to be with her desperately homesick daughter. She’s the kind of mom who makes sure the fridge is stocked with all her daughter’s favorites when she comes home. She’s the kind of mom who only once took a sick day for herself, but often took sick days for her ill children. She’s the one who has been to O’Hare airport and said goodbye too many times to count.


But my mom is more than just a mom. She’s a great woman, too.

This woman was born 40-some years ago in a small town called Crawfordsville. Her best friend growing up was her twin sister Diane, with whom she caused mild scandals, including one incident of the word fart written on a neighbor’s driveway. She once washed her sister Beth’s car for a pack of gum (she refused to do it for just one stick). She started dating a scoundrel named Randy when she was just fourteen, still in middle school. She has had the same job for over twenty years and, like I said, has almost never called in sick on her own account. She taught my brother to tie his shoes in a car in the state of Connecticut. She likes chocolate chip cookies more than most any other dessert and can’t stay away from a pan of brownies. (It’s no coincidence that her sister has the nickname “Diane Full of Brownies.”) Every year, an elderly patient gives her Snickers Bars in a brown paper bag with the nickname “Cupcake” written in marker on it. She is fiendishly devoted to watering her flowers in the summer. Her tablecloth is always seasonal. She may have eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches more times than just about anyone else on the planet, but who’s counting? She gives the world’s greatest hugs (a tie with a certain boy named Mario). She doesn’t speak Spanish, but can generally tell when I’m talking about her, due to her sensors picking up on the word, “Madre.” Her favorite medicines are ibuprofen and tough love. (“Take an ibuprofen and tough it out!”)

I can’t sum up my mother in a pithy sentence. I can’t express in words who she is to me or to the many other people she blesses on a daily basis. What I can say is this: I am the most blessed daughter in the world to have been born to a mom like her.

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.

P.S. See you on Thursday!