Recently, my Brother and I were talking on the phone when he made a smart ass remark about how I’m not a “real” Montanan anymore. He meant it to be funny, but the questioning of my home-state roots happens to be my Achille’s Heel, so his attempt at humor came out rude. (The snark, it’s genetic.) While reprimanding him for piercing my soft underbelly with the business end of a rusty ice pick, I uttered the phrase, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”
This brought the conversation to a dead stop.
“Oh my God,” I said, “I’m turning into our Mother.”
“Ha! You should be so lucky!” was his reply.
And he was right.
The truth is that everyone, from our Golden Retrievers to my best friends, likes my Mother best. And my Brother and I are completely fine with that. We simply can’t compete with the kindest, warmest, most caring, most genuine woman living in the American West, if not the entire North American continent.
Finding the words to tell you how completely awesome my Mom, without turning this post into a catalog of Hallmark cliches, is somewhat difficult.
How do I explain how her work as a debate coach has changed the lives of hundreds of teenagers, simply because she believed in their potential and encouraged them to pursue their dreams? How do I describe the looks of glee on their faces when they run into her in the Starbucks? Or how she beams and giggles when they pull her into these giant bear hugs and tell her how much she means to them?
She’s invited to their graduation parties, their weddings and their baby showers. Their parents talk about her with what can only be described as reverence. And simply because I am her daughter, these teenagers and twenty-somethings friend me on Facebook and contact me regularly to ask questions about college, resumes and politics or just to wish me a happy birthday or send me a congratulatory note. There simply aren’t enough nice words to express how much they respect and love her, and how she loves them right back.
I may only have one biological sibling, but all across this country, there are young people who consider my Mom their second-mother. She’s helped raise multiple doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers and architects. Oh, and I forgot to mention the astronaut.
How the hell do my Brother and I compete when one of my Mother’s surrogate children is going to be a damn astronaut?
My Mom puts my friends and my Brother’s friends on her Christmas card list under “family.” She remembers her hairdresser’s birthday, and asks the pharmacist how his son is liking college, and whether the produce manager’s daughter made the softball team. In fact, she could run into any one of my ex-boyfriends on the street today, and there isn’t a single one who wouldn’t be thrilled to see her. And her kindness is not limited to just the people she knows.
My Mom is the type of lady who asks complete strangers, “How are you?” and is genuinely interested in the answer. This often leads to long conversations in the Wal-Mart check-out line or the airport waiting room. None of which she minds in the slightest.
In fact, just last week, I was telling her about a bad taxi ride that I’d had that day when she reminded me about one of the cab drivers we had on her first trip to D.C.. The man’s name was Mohammed, he was originally from Egypt and he had a three-year-old grandson named Youssef who was just learning to play soccer and wanted to be a fireman when he grew up. All of this information was gleaned on a ride from Dupont to Georgetown eight years ago, and yet, she remembers it like it was yesterday.
I sometimes wonder how I could be genetically related to a woman that good and generous and kind. But every now and then, I catch a glimpse of her in myself, and it makes me think that there’s hope for me yet. Most people spend their lives trying to be better parents than the ones they had, but I’ll be lucky if I’m half the mother, or half the person, that my Mom is.
My Brother and I have often discussed how jealous we are of our future children because they get to have our Mom as their grandmother. It’ll be like hitting the lottery, and then finding out that your winnings are tax-free. She’ll spoil them completely rotten and convince them that they can do crazy things like become an astronaut…because that’s just who she is.
So here’s to you Mom–bringer of joy, supporter of dreams, giver of hugs, cheerleader in chief, and the all-around best person that I will ever know–Happy Mother’s Day.