Since I offered our father a Father’s Day wish last year, it is only fair that I offer this Mother’s Day message to our mother. Besides, I know Mom will be proud that I saved the cost of the card and the next-day mail this year. (Mom, I promise to donate it to a worthy cause.)
It’s been a long time, so my memory may not be completely accurate, but here is the way I remember it. Back in the late 70s, my mom, who never went to college (she was born in Siberia, immigrated to America at the end of World War II as a young child, and was placed a bit behind in school), decided she would start taking college courses at the local community college. At the end of the semester, her report card arrived, and she promptly decided to discontinue her studies. No, she hadn’t flunked. In fact, she had aced every one of her courses. Her sterling achievement only served to confirm that she didn’t need college to teach her what she already knew or who she already was.
Mom, some parents are the counterbalances to their spouses: good cop to the bad cop, soft touch to the heavy hand, comforter to the disciplinarian. Not you, Mom. As far as I am concerned, you are a Supermom if there ever was one. You are strong and courageous, soft and loving. You are mischievous and funny, smart and capable. And boy do you enjoy a good laugh. Your eyes are always sparkling and alive, exuding warmth and passion.
Granted, I have three sisters and I can’t speak for them. Mother-daughter relationships are fraught with dynamics that can be described as complicated at best. Even so, I know there are certain things they would not deny. You have worked hard your whole life; as I was growing up, your hands were never at rest. If you weren’t commuting into the city and working a full time job, you were in the yard on your hands and knees pulling weeds. You would clean up from dinner and start in with the laundry, usually falling asleep on the sofa surrounded by folded clothes. While a little guilt is not a bad thing, you rarely rode us to work as hard as you did.
Mom, you taught us how to take responsibility for ourselves. You charged us with chores, cooking, cleaning, picking up after ourselves – and others. (Boy, is my wife happy about that!) And when you would finally stop moving for a few minutes, perhaps to read a book or knit, you would promptly doze off. (Some things never change!) I have come to understand that your exhaustion was never just about your physical exertion, but about the emotional energy you expended on everyone and everything. You always are worrying about someone; always carrying us in your giant heart. Even as you sit at the computer these days, staring at your game of Spider Solitaire, I know you are not alone. Your parents, your husband, your siblings, your kids, grandkids, and great-grandchild – they are never far from your thoughts. You are indeed a woman of valor; the consummate eishet chayil.
I recall that, as a child, I would sit next to you in synagogue on a Friday night and you would take my hand in yours. You said everything in that grasp: “I will always be your shelter.” Ten years later, as I was stressing about college applications and meeting expectations, you sat at my bedside, reassuring me in your presence that all would be well. I heard it all: “I will always love you unconditionally.” To this day I know that to be with you, wherever you are, is to find safe harbor.
Mom, on this erev Shabbat I offer you praise. Please know that the sentiments I share are ones that I feel every day. You have taught us to do the right thing, to fulfill our obligations, to respect your parents, to clean up, and to do anything we can to make our children’s lives easier while teaching them responsibility. This is the code you choose to live by. To paraphrase Proverb 31, your children rise up to bring you joy, your husband to praise you, “Many woman have excelled, but you surpass them all.” Grace is deceptive. Beauty is illusory. It is the woman who fears God who should be praised. Give her credit for the fruit of her labors, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. And the same for Baba – you can tell her this blog is about her too, except for the no-guilt part!