Purple Flowers

Mother’s Day is such a funny little celebration. Overpriced flowers, candies, brunches, matching kid outfits — all in honor of the one who birthed us. It’s a commonality we children carry… like birth, like death, there are inevitable things we share in the connectedness of our existence.

Each of us has a mother.

Perhaps we had an angry mother. Or one who gave us up. Or one who donated an egg. Or one who fell to her knees every night and prayed for us to arrive. Or one who was afraid of this fragile gift she’d been given. Or one who never quite understood how to open her heart and soften her grip. Or one who was so misguided in her own journey that she didn’t know how to help us find our way. Or for those of us so lucky, one who lavished us with unconditional love and praise and attention and discipline and wisdom.

Not all of us are mothers. Some by choice. Some by circumstance. And yet, we’re all responsible for the love and care and nurturing of this planet and its inhabitants. Many women I know who cannot describe themselves as “mothers” in the traditional sense of the word are more motherly than many who were able to grow babies inside their wombs.

My four beloved children “officially” made me a mother, but it was this web of humanity that created the mother in me long before I had kids… and that will continue to mold and shape me as my kids decide whether or not to create families of their own, as my own grand babies (or, perhaps, the grand babies of those nearest and dearest to me) are rocked in my arms, as I hold the warm and freshly wrinkled hands of my friends, as we live and laugh and carry each other through this beautiful and tumultuous life.

On this day, I celebrate us all. Those with babies of their own, those with babies in heaven, those with babies who never made it to earth, those with testosterone instead of estrogen who raise their children (or their brethren) with love and kindness and compassion, those who willingly and unselfishly serve as surrogate mothers — both physically and emotionally — in the absence of something more traditional.

Motherhood, after all, is about something bigger than all of us, something that holds us closely and teaches us how to walk and talk and love. Something that acts as an emotional and spiritual guide in our often messy lives.

I was blessed with a beautiful, wonderful, funny, perfectly flawed, and fabulous mother. She has been my rock and my inspiration and my soft spot to land throughout every one of my 42 years on this planet. She has loved me without question or judgment, has taught me right from wrong, has picked me up when I’ve fallen, has embraced my friends and written off those who have broken my heart (perhaps with just a little bit more spite than necessary), has held my babies tightly, has moistened their tender cheeks with the tears of her overwhelming gratitude and devotion, has taught them all the same life lessons she instilled in me and my big sister.

She is a gift of the greatest magnitude with her cotton white hair and her spotted, aging hands and her wickedly contagious sense of humor. I could not ask for more, could never express enough gratitude for what I’ve been given in her.

I was lucky enough to receive a beloved older sister who looked after me when I was young, who took me on her dates, who taught me how to apply eye shadow and introduced me to the scandalous V.C. Andrews, who drove me to school, who carried my secrets. I’ve also been blessed with a wide and deep safety net of grandmothers, aunts, cousins, friends. They, too, have taught me about motherhood — about what it means to do something for the greater good, to care for those who might never have the opportunity to repay you, to do something for which you never expect a “thank you,” to hold, to help, to heal.

Whether or not a woman has carried children within her own body does not innately create a mother. It is in that magnanimous giving, that selfless sacrifice that true mothering makes itself known. It is in the shoulder wet from your tears, the voice guiding you back onto the path from which you’ve strayed, the ears that are always willing to listen, the hand that reaches for the phone in the middle of the night — the one that inherently knows you are on the other end, curled up in the fetal position, wine in one hand, sodden tissues in the other.

Unconditional love. It is easy (for most) to share it with our children. It is a gift to be able to offer it to others. It is a miracle to be willing to share it with everyone.

I celebrate those of you with wide, embracing, tireless Mother-arms. With big, all-encompassing Mama-hearts. With a soul that has never known — nor will ever know — scarcity. With those who understand there is always enough to go around. And then some.

Happy Mother’s Day, Lovers and Givers and Dearest Mamas in all your lovely incarnations. Thank you for you.

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