This beautiful painting graces my living room wall and is a treasured possession. My very own professional artist mother painted this watercolor. The subject of the painting is something that Mom has always enjoyed -- from smooth glassy lakes to crashing ocean waves, Mom loves water. The painting is near to my heart, because it reminds me of her continually, not just that she is there, but of who and what she is.
It is my mom’s birthday today. I sent her a card that said simply, “Because of you, counting my blessings takes a very, very long time.” And it is so true. My mom was one of a shrinking minority of women who stayed home with her children. When I was a child, I never thought for one moment about what it would be like to come home daily to nobody, and I never thought about how the house got clean, and I never thought about what Mom might have been sacrificing to give us kids a stable and loving upbringing. I was involved in Campfire Girls and swim team and gymnastics and other things just because I had a mom who stayed home. Mom cheered us kids on at soccer and water polo and baseball and music lessons and tall flags team, and she COULD do that, because she didn’t have her life committed to someone or something else. Many of the other kids performed or raced or played without any family in the audience, and then went home to an empty house. Did they know someone loved them? I knew someone loved me. Mom was (and is) committed to her family, to ME.
The stress of my high school years was the nagging question, “What are you going to do after high school?” or, “Where are you going to college?” I could never really decide, and then feel like I had made the right decision. In all the career guidance classes and seminars I sat through, no one ever suggested that being a wife and mother was even a choice, or else I might have said, “THAT! That’s what I want to be! I want to be what my mom is!” So off I went to college, since that is what everyone, including me, expected me to do, and got a degree in biology, which I don’t use today except that I can identify whether the stuff growing at the base of the toilet is a mold or a fungus. (And here I must say that while, if I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn't go to college, I am very grateful to my parents for sending me. I got a wonderful husband out of the deal :o)
On a recent visit to my parents’ house, as we were sitting in traffic somewhere, Mom told me she now is wishing she had prepared for a career, and that she had not stayed home. I was surprised, and I think I mumbled something about how grateful I was (and am) that she DID stay home and that she DIDN’T have a career somewhere. I know that for me, independence came soon enough. It would not have been good for me to have been on my own after school. I am the person I am today because Mom was always there. Mom’s love for Dad and her love for my brothers and me gave my life stability. It was an anchor. Her giving up a career and postponing chasing after other interests is one key reason why I have a good marriage and a happy family. That is a gift that she gave me when I left home. I can’t imagine what my life would be without Mom as I know her. A working mother would have been a completely different mother.
So, Mom, on your birthday, let me tell you thank you. It has taken me tooooo long to realize what you gave when you stayed home with us kids. Certainly it took being a mom, myself, to see that, but I wish I had been less self-centered and more thoughtful when I was growing up, so that I could have expressed this sooner, like when I was 12 or 16 or 21 or 35. Thank you for all the times you stayed in my room talking, when I should have been asleep. Thank you for all the times you trusted me, even when I came in at 1:00 a.m. Thank you for all the times you went out of your way to accommodate my friends. Thank you for loving me when I was most unloveable! Thank you for encouraging me to write. Thank you for sooooo patiently teaching me to sew. Thank you for all the times you have helped me/us move. Thank you for sticking by me and believing in me, in times when you can’t identify with me or understand my heart. Thank you, most of all, for being home.
If I could truly express what it has meant to me now to have had a mom who was THERE, you would change your mind about that career. You had a career, and you did it well. It had a much better and longer-lasting impact on the world than anything else you ever wanted to be. I love you so much. Happy Birthday, and God bless you specially, today and always.