Sunday is Mother’s Day. I am one of many women who no longer have their dear Mother to celebrate and to honor on such a day. Then again, in my family, we celebrated and honored each other, every day, not by giving each other lavish gifts, but by giving of ourselves, our time, our energy, our care and our love. We did this every day that we could.
I learned to do these things from my mother. Mothers are traditionally the heart and soul of the family, and Fathers are the rock and the protectors, and together there is a wonderful energy that binds the family together.
My mother was special to me. She was a complex woman of many interests, depth and character. As a child, I watched her sew, and when she met a lady who was the head seamstress at a toney store way back when, she learned more refinements that the sewing classes that she had before did not unveil. In turn, she had cooking and baking classes at home. My mother could do ethnic cooking, as well as fine baking. When a magazine published some of the lovely cakes that the older hotels served, my mother made the famous Waldorf Astoria cake, as well as many other elegant cakes and treats.
I so often remember the smell of croissants and brioche that she would make, or the incredibly complex cookies that she would make for Christmas gifts. Later all the refined flours were replaced by whole grains (we even had a grinder!), complex sweeteners, and truly hearty and better for you foods. My mother would make her own herbal tinctures, and she studied and took many classes and got certifications in various bodywork modalities. She was constantly evolving, learning, sharing, and striving to do what would make our lives fuller, richer and more whole.
My mother grew up on a farm, and life was very difficult. Imagine washing blue jeans, and not the soft stuff we have now, on a washboard, not just your own but the soiled jeans of your 5 brothers and father. My maternal grandmother came from a comfortable life and when she came to the United States, the grueling hard life on a farm was too much for her. In a paternalistic family, my mom, at age 9, became an adult and did adult chores.
My mother was tough. To look at me now, people would not have guessed, but I was a frail child. Growing up as a frail child in a gang ridden, not so great neighborhood is not a good thing. I discovered martial arts as a kid, and my parents wholly embraced that I wanted to study it. My parents liked the mental fortitude and focus, and the physical strength gained by practicing martial arts. Because of my mother, I also had gotten into sports. Back then, my mother had tremendous physical power.
The neighborhood started to go from really crappy to incredibly crappy. We had new neighborhood thugs who would bully the people who lived here before them, and try to extort them. And then, there were the rude, demeaning comments we had to hear just walking down the street. One day, enough was enough. My mom dug around and grabbed a hardball and a mitt. She went right up to the offenders and sweetly said, ‘Anyone up for a game of catch?’ Remember, this was not 2011 but back before AK47’s were all the rage.
So there we all were, in the alley, with the old neighbors at one end and the new thugs at the other. It was like our own West Side Story. What they didn’t know was that besides my mother’s incredible physical power, she grew up with five brothers. What they also didn’t know was that when my mom discovered the game of tennis, she was often given free and / or discounted lessons because coaches just wanted to encourage her natural athletic talent. What the thugs also didn’t know is that when she played in tournaments, she did well against men because she not only had that physical power, but she had no fear.
When she threw down the mitt and caught those hard balls and hurled them back (my mom did not throw like a girl, but a guy, barehanded, and with all the power behind it), the thugs started to really pay attention. After everyone tired, they actually admitted to having a good time, meeting the neighbors that they had been terrorizing on a different level, and decided that we were all on the same side, whatever that was, and they left most of us alone.
So besides love, compassion, kindness, and caring, I learned from my mother that fear is not a way to live, but something you confront, from a position of strength and personal power. I also learned from my mother that personal power is not from inflated ego, but from knowing who you are, being in touch with the God within, and touching those you meet with that love.
Dedicated to my Mother, who art in Heaven….