Happy Mother’s Day

We have had sun for a straight week in Seattle; today – on Mother’s Day – it will be in the 80s, and I would normally be overjoyed with this forecast except for the fact that I can’t shake off this feeling that I wished our mothers were here to experience this abnormally perfect Seattle weather. Our moms have not yet visited us here and I couldn’t think of a better week for them to have done so. If they were here today, we’d pick out some gorgeous Farmer’s Market flowers for them and take them for brunch wherever there’s a good water view. For some, it’s just a day; for us it’s one of the most important holidays, so today feels slightly bitter sweet.

Like so many women in this country, my mom was a single mom even before I was born. Almost everyone can agree that being a mother is one of the most challenging jobs to have; but single mothers who have to navigate the minefield of parenting for the first time without the help and support of a partner while trying to financially support a new baby is an entirely different type of parenting. In order to financially support me, my mom had to go where there was work and the potential for me to have a better life – this meant leaving me behind with relatives in another country. Knowing how tender and sensitive my mom is and how much she loves me, I can only imagine how painful it must have been for her to be separated from her young child and go into a strange new world without her.

My mom later told me that there were many nights during our early years of separation that she cried of heart break. She was alone and scared, and all she wanted was her daughter. What kept her going during that time was the sheer will and fierce determination to not only make a living but to become successful, and the primal love a mother has for her child. My God, the stories I can tell you about how much my mom suffered, the kind of struggles I’ve never experienced in my life because of her.  Her story, although unique, parallels many immigrant parents who have to leave their children behind in their native lands; the obstacles she faced are what single mothers, particularly those with financial hardships, still face today.

My mother-in-law is another strong female who had the responsibility of managing a busy household while working full-time. From what I’ve gathered from my husband, she raised her two sons with both a fair hand of discipline and an abundance of love. Here was a woman going through her own struggles, of a different kind, but she always made sure her sons were never without. Today my mother-in-law is the kind of woman who can whip up a gourmet meal like no one’s business while “working” as a full-time caretaker (because being a caretaker is one of the hardest non-paying jobs one will ever have), and all done with an enviable level of calm, cool and grace that can only come from years of experience.

All the sacrifices our moms made, all the hardships they endured – how do we even begin to repay that? As if the gift of life isn’t enough. How do we begin to repay the years our moms put us through school so that we could have the kind of education they only dreamed about? (Both our moms put us through private high school education). How do we repay them for the gift of never worrying about food or shelter – things that so many people of our generation take for granted? (My mom as a young girl had to walk miles in the snow without a winter coat to receive food from a church in order to feed her family). The truth of the matter is: We can’t. There is no way we could do for our moms what they have done for us. The only thing we can do now is to not only love them internally or say that we do, but to show them, even if it’s in small ways, and appreciate them, value them, thank them, and never ever forget the things they have given us, especially life and love. Mother’s Day serves as a particularly good day to reflect on these things.

I’ve heard people say over the years that Mother’s Day is another day exploited by businesses like Hallmark to make a profit. And while I would normally agree with some of the other holidays we celebrate in this country, I beg to differ about this day. Considering how much some of our mothers have done for us, it only seems right that there is one day a year that’s dedicated exclusively to celebrating  and honoring mothers. We have festivals like Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day, and while I think it’s great that people come together for the sole purpose of having fun, I think Mother’s Day should be – excuse the pun – the mother of all festivals.

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