As this Mother’s Day passes my thoughts return to the way I used to celebrate this wonderful day with my mother. The celebration always centered around food, and she preferred home cooked meals. Due to her public life, she felt that she had eaten out enough to last a lifetime. If she was not cooking, she liked to sit on the edge of the kitchen and taste the food as it was being prepared, occasionally offering suggestions for additional spices or different cooking methods. She always spiced the gathering with amazing stories and anecdotes that were poignant and often funny.
She felt that food was central to the success of any gathering or celebration. She invested time, attention and love into everything she prepared in her kitchen. She regularly purchased cookbooks to broaden her understanding of the chemistry involved in cooking and the interaction of different spices. Although she developed an allergy to seafood in her late twenties, she purchased various Asian cookbooks which utilized lots of fish sauce along with ground shrimp and fish powders in the preparation and flavoring of the dishes. She explained that the cookbooks gave her a better idea of what foods might be safe for her to eat while expanding her knowledge of different cooking techniques. My mother really loved to cook and the only thing that she enjoyed more than that was sharing it; sitting down at the table after Grace was said and eating the steaming array of delicious dishes while exchanging good stories and laughter.
While the gastronomic achievements of my mother’s efforts might dominate the conversation and the attention of her guests, she would never let a Mother’s Day pass without a group toast and a statement about the importance of motherhood. Sometimes she would have the mothers among her guests identify themselves and then she would raise a glass specifically to them. As I was growing up, in the absence of fathers there were mothers, grandmothers, aunts and godmothers stepping forward in an attempt to fill in the gap. My mother called these women sheroes; their names might not be included in history books, but they were written indelibly in human hearts.
She felt it was always important to acknowledge acts of love, honesty, kindness, generosity, compassion, empathy, courage and forgiveness. It was her belief that these positive actions had the effect of glue in keeping our connections strong as a counterbalance to the forces of entropy and dissolution which are besetting our families, our neighborhoods, our cities and our Nation as a whole. She felt that if it was important to teach the social value of these actions then it was also important to publicly acknowledge them.
For her, Mother’s Day was important because it was an acknowledgment of the importance of love and attention that a mother can give. Father’s Day was important to her for the same reasons. She felt that love was the most important emotion in the development of sane and healthy human beings. For her, love didn’t mean coddling and blind acceptance of any type of behavior; rather it meant parenting with a disciplined, but nurturing hand. My mother loved me and continually challenged me to be the best person I could be. Whether she was consumed by work or totally involved in social protest, she always made me aware that I was never beyond her peripheral vision. My mother never let her love for me get in the way parenting. Yet, she recognized the amazing complexity of being human and did not demand adherence to anything but certain behavioral standards and the usage of social graces, because she understood that it was more difficult to realize personal dreams if one is confined by the expectations of others. She felt that love should be liberating rather than confining.
It is important that we do not limit honoring our mothers to one or two days a year. Given the unpredictability of life, in truth, we need to recognize all of our loved ones with the attention and love that binds us together. Too often, we allow the push and pull of life to distract us from the necessary rejuvenating actions that keep our relationships alive and thriving. My mother ascended five years ago today and I find myself still regretting that there are events and places that we did not experience together. Ergo, I caution all those whose mothers are still living, not to delay or postpone any intended gatherings or reunions. In fact, invest time and attention in all those you love. Keep the love alive in your life.