Some things are hard to look at directly. It’s like staring at the sun. Sometimes a mom is like that.
I work at a high school where the primary need, what is missing above all else, are parents. To too many kids their parents are simply not there. This is not a commentary on parenting styles or setting boundaries, or any of that (though that could be another discussion). Too often the parent simply doesn’t exist. At school, there are teachers and staff members that many students call “Mom.” They do this because their mom is dead, or left, or in prison, or whatever else. These students find affirmation and love from somewhere else. It is beautiful, tragic, and redemptive to witness.
My in-laws have invited me to call them mom and dad. I can’t. I love them. They are supportive and generous and treat me like a member of the family. I appreciate them. Here’s why I can’t call them mom or dad, here’s why I’ll never say “she was like a second mom to me.” The role has been filled. I have a mother. Always have. Always will.
I dislike Mother’s Day because it feels like an impossibility, a cruel joke, a stakes heightened farce. How in the world could you express the appropriate thanks? (Poem recommendation: “The Lanyard” by Billy Collins)
There’s a motif in many stories about people preparing to move or go off to war or die or go to college or experience something that is going to mean separation – either temporary or permanent. And often there are characters in the story that will do these things together – saying goodbye to this person or that, and they’ll have these moments where it is just really hard to realize that they won’t see the mailman again for years, or never eat peanut butter, or never drink Dr. Pepper again. Small things, these, but symbolic and accompanied by big emotions. And those small things are easy enough to look at and write about. But some topics are trickier. (This is Appreciation #103 on this blog. Clearly this is NOT a ranked list.)
The characters, right before the plane leaves, have a moment of realization when they understand for the first time that the other person is not getting on the plane with them. It’s hard to compute. That world doesn’t make sense. The fish doesn’t think about the water.
I don’t think about the sun very much. I enjoy it, might be able to say something intelligible about photosynthesis, or cultures with sun gods, or how Christians sometimes use wordplay with sun and son. This summer there will be a solar eclipse. (Essay recommendation about the last time we had an eclipse: Annie Dillard’s “Total Eclipse” in Teaching a Stone to Talk) There are numerous accounts of how people act strangely or terrified or confused when the presence of the sun disappears. We take the sun for granted. It’s obviously in the sky, always has been. It seems ridiculous to even think otherwise. And yet it’s hard to look right at the sun. During an eclipse, you need special glasses.
So it is with my mother. And maybe yours too. Like some kind of plant, I am growing into who I am because of who she is. She isn’t the rain, the sun, the seed, the soil, the season, the compost. Not all of them. But she is certainly one of them. Analogy under construction: Is my mom dirt or compost or rain or sun?
I love you mom.
Thanks for being you.
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