Today is my mother’s birthday (happy birthday, Mom!), and while we won’t be celebrating together until this weekend, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate her here, in front of god and everybody. She’s an amazing woman–also a colossal pain in the neck, but aren’t all mothers?–and because I think it’s important for people to know about the impact they make, I’d like to share some of the things my mother has taught me.
1. Your mother can be your best friend or your most formidable opponent. Choose wisely. Mom and I tell each other everything–and I mean everything. Her support is unwavering, her love is unconditional…and she’s got so much dirt on me that I’d go broke trying to keep her quiet if I ever made the foolish mistake of pissing her off before running for office. Besides, she was my age once, and knows all the secret levels. There is no way to beat her at this game–so you may as well form an alliance.
2. You’ve gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run. Mom has, on more than one occasion, found herself in a situation that was frankly unsafe–and she had the guts to defy social convention and get out. She’s good at forgiving–very, very good at forgiving–but she’s also good at saying “enough is enough” and gettin’ the hell outta Dodge, even if it means sacrificing everything you can’t carry in one bag. I wish more people had this strength.
3. Love is not there for your convenience. I watched my mother spend the night in hospital bedside chairs more times than I can count. I have seen her divide herself into six people so everything could get done. I have seen her make sacrifices, put other people ahead of herself, put herself ahead of other people when it was necessary, and refuse to give up on someone even when everybody else had already turned their backs. When Mom loves someone, it’s a 100% commitment–even when it’s about the least convenient arrangement you’ve ever seen.
4. We’re all god’s children, therefore we are all related. Act accordingly. I have never once seen my mother turn anyone away from her table, and lemme tell ya, I’ve pushed that envelope. I’ve brought home boyfriends my parents didn’t like, boyfriends my parents tolerated through gritted teeth, friends of all shapes and sizes and hygiene levels, hippies, pagans, anarchists, a Czech linguist with a thick accent, and a recently adopted dog…and every single one of them was fed and treated as though they belonged there. (Sometimes I got a stern talking-to after the fact, but really, I kinda deserved that.) When someone makes a strong impression, Mom will start referring to them as her son or daughter–and the coolest thing about that is that she means it, in a real, tangible, of-course-you-can-have-my-kidney-dear sort of way. Short form: Mom taught me about Chosen Family before I even realized that’s what she was doing.
5. Women can do anything men can do. Plus they know how to get grease out from under their fingernails while mentally juggling a budget and figuring out what’s for dinner.
6. Strength is not about pretending nothing’s wrong; it’s about saying “I hate this so much” and then going right ahead and doing what needs done. See also: Courage is not the absence of fear; it’s being scared out of your gourd and doing it anyway.
7. Having strong convictions does not mean beating other people about the head with them. My mother has the strongest faith of anyone I’ve ever met–and she won’t say a word about it unless you ask. Sure, she’ll casually mention something funny that happened at church, or an interesting point from a sermon she’s recently heard; but I have never once heard her say “So. About how you’re going to burn forever. That’s pretty sad, huh?”. Instead, she just makes herself available if people want to know more about her beliefs, and prays quietly for them if they don’t. Net result: if there’s anyone out there who’d like to know more about Christianity, she’s the first person I’d send ’em to, ahead of any member of the clergy I’ve ever known.
8. Humility matters. She’d be so embarrassed right now if she read that last bit (hi, Mom!), because her goal in life is to be a servant to others, not a leader. She’ll accept leadership roles if they’re thrust upon her, and will lead with grace and respect, but that’s not really her big goal in life. Which means, of course, that she’s the best kind of leader.
9. Be kind. Like really, really kind. My mother used to drive all the way across town to take my grandmother to the grocery store (Grandma didn’t drive). She used to ferry my aunt to the store too, when her kids were wee bitty things and their family only had one car. She used to bake an anniversary cake for our neighbors every single year (and had a special heart-shaped pan that she always used). And my personal favorite: she taught me that you never return a dish empty. If someone brought us something–a cake, or a casserole, or what have you–Mom always returned the pan with something else in it. I love that, and think it’s one of the best ideas of all time.
10. Play nicely, share the toys, and don’t make me come down there. My entire philosophy is a direct paraphrase of my Mom. She will love you unconditionally; she insists that you love each other unconditionally; and she will take your arm off and beat you with it if that’s what it takes to keep you in line. And don’t even think about coming between her and her cubs–whether you’re her biological family or her chosen family, if someone hurts you, she will chew their throat out with her teeth and then go have some pancakes. And she’s a Mom, so she knows how to get bloodstains out of clothing.
Look, here’s the bottom line: my mother is amazing. She is an incredible human being, and everyone who has ever met her tends to love her immediately–which is good, because she loves them right back. And if I have one goal in life, it’s to be half the woman my mother is.
So Mom, this one’s for you. Happy birthday, and today I thank god for placing you on this earth. You’d be my best friend even if we weren’t related; the fact that you’re my Mom just makes me the luckiest human being alive.
Love you forever,
Pookie T I’llAlwaysBeYourBabyGirl Butt