When my mother had the first of us, a baby boy, she was just 19 years old. A baby herself, mostly. By the time she finished having all five of us, she was 36. In between, there would be three more boys – one profoundly retarded – and me.
She made it look easy, managing five kids, a dog or two, and international assignments following my dad around the globe through his Army career. She never went to college but was smarter than most anyone I’ve ever met. Her worldview was centered around providing for – and protecting – her family, her kids, and her marriage.
There were moments when it was all so obviously exhausting. Sometimes, in the middle of the day, she’d fall asleep standing over laundry she was folding. Sometimes, she lost her temper. Sometimes, she cried. But she never complained. Motherhood was, she often said, the best job she never got paid to do.
As I began thinking of how to honor moms in what was to be our May monthly issue, I began thinking of all the different ways my mother, my mom, my mommy, moved through life. Far from perfect, but so damn close, she was authentic, humble, kind and, most of all, human.
Like my mom, the mothers we interviewed for this short series are authentic – they follow the voice inside that guides them towards tomorrow. Some have had it easier, some have weathered some difficult situations and loss. But each one exemplifies – to me – the uniqueness of motherhood: there is no one way, no best way, no right way, to do it. You learn most of it as you go. You make mistakes. You trip up. You get back up. You keep going. And, you fight: for your kid(s), for your place, for your voice, for your life.
My mom is now 87 and in an assisted living facility in South Florida. Due to the advanced nature of her dementia, she doesn’t remember me or my brothers most of the time. But every once in a while – like on my last visit to see her before the quarantining began – a spark happens and I know she knows I’m there with her. An “I love you,” mouthed from a silent place in her heart brought my mom back to me. Just for a second. A moment later, she reached for my hand and held it as tight as she did when she crossed a street with me as a young girl. I miss my mom, but I have a lifetime of memories to honor and remember her. And I do, often.
To all the moms out there who are doing their best to hold it together, keep heading for tomorrow.