Aging Well

This Mother's Day

Listen to your heart this Mother's Day and let all that love and appreciation for your mother find it's way out.

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Mom in my garden
Liisa Ogburn

"Did your girls give you the Mother’s Day card I left them last weekend?" Mom asked when I called her this morning.

Even at 77, my mother is still taking care of me.

As a mother of three myself, I am well aware of all the visible and invisible ways one continues to take care of their children, over time, regardless of their age.

I wince remembering many years ago, as the only teenager in my middle school whose mother handmade all her clothes, saying something to the effect of wanting nothing more than to be like the other kids around me, wearing store-bought brand name clothes. (I remember using my babysitting money to buy my first and only Izod knit shirt.) Mom, who helped Dad build the house we were living in, cooked even our bread from scratch, made our school lunches out of any leftovers from dinner the night before, responded, “One day you’ll appreciate me.”

I reminded her of that story on the phone this morning and said she was absolutely right. She laughed.

This past week, I wore one of the dozen Merimekko dresses she made for herself over fifty years ago and recently tailored to fit me. Most of the flowers planted in the circle beside where I am sitting—Anabella hydrangeas, Solomon Seal, Lenten Roses, begonias and several varieties of ferns and hostas—were brought in plastic Harris Teeter bags during her many visits over the years.

In fact, I would be hard-pressed to look around my home and not see my mother’s handiwork. For that matter, perhaps her most evident work was in making me the person I am today.

It is so easy (and human) in earlier years to spend a fair portion of one’s emotional energy trying to differentiate oneself from one's parents.

Raising teenagers myself , I am painfully aware of that, and also remorseful of the tumult and heartbreak I cost my parents.

But here we all are, coming out of “the lost year,” the pandemic year when we were legally mandated to sit alone with our own thoughts and selves, without (at least for those not working on the frontlines) all the ways we keep ourselves busy and distracted.

Maybe, in the quiet of this year, we can “see” ourselves more accurately. Maybe also, we can act differently. The opening lines from Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese, come to mind this morning:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Coming out of this pandemic year though, maybe there is space to do things differently, with more purpose and more heart. To loosen up, to love and be loved.

Maybe there is nothing you would do differently?

If there is, and it comes from that command station we call our heart (that is often papered over), and particularly if it involves your mother, then I encourage you to do it. In Mary Oliver's words, "let the soft animal of your body love what it loves."

Happy Mother's Day.

I love you, Mom!

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