On Wednesday we celebrated Mexican Mother’s Day by taking flowers to the grave of my mother in law and cards and balloons to a couple of mother figures in our lives. It had been waaay to long since we had reached out to these wonderful ladies. We had allowed the everyday routine to get in the way of maintaining our connection. These two ladies provide a strong connection with my husband’s mother, they were both dear friends his whole growing up. Since she died, we have allowed ourselves to drift away from the incredibly tight knit and supportive community that he had been part of his whole life. And do you know what is even more shameful? Both of these ladies live within two blocks of our house. Yep, now that it’s our turn to be there for folks who have been there for our family for years, somehow the busyness of the everyday gets in the way. I am resolving to do better, to reach out to folks that mean something to my family much more often, to be a better friend.
So, now that today is American Mother’s Day, I have been thinking about my mother and how, even though I see her nearly every day, we are both so busy that we rarely connect in any kind of real way. Now often we are both busy with the small person who has become the center of our entire family’s universe and much of the time my mom is pursuing her passion for music.
For me, there is always more to do than can possibly be accomplished in any given day. Often, more often than I care to admit, those chores are allowed to take my attention from the people I really do want to spend quality time with. Or, I am so exhausted by all the day’s work that I don’t have the energy to make a meaningful connection when I do have the time. Then I end up with a backlog of chores that need to be done and neglected relationships. So, enough self-flagellation.
Today I am going to remember a few of the people who have been a mother figure in my life, those who have loved me warts and all. First, of course, is my mom. She projects a gentleness that is supported by a will of iron. When she thinks something is important, she is relentless. She often sacrifices the things that she does for herself so that she can be sure others are taken care of. My mother will also neglect such minor necessities like sleep to try to do it all. She is loving, even when taking one to task and does things for all of us in the family as well as thoughtful things for friends. If you need something, and she can do something about it, she will, often regardless of considerable inconvenience.
I learned from my mom to show up. She was at everything I ever did growing up. It never even occurred to me that my parents would not show up to cheer me on, even when I was doing things that they would not have chosen for me, such as my many experiments in religion. She also shows up for important events in the family and for friends, as naturally as if it takes no effort at all.
My Mother In Law
We moved into my in-law’s home very soon after we were married to take care of my father in law who was very ill. Mi suegra welcomed me and made me feel truly welcome in her home. In a small, suddenly crowded home, she made major efforts to let me claim my own space. She helped me learn Spanish and taught me many of her best dishes. I learned some of what made her a phenomenal cook. That was one of her amazing talents, she could taste a dish, then go home and recreate it, often better than the original. I learned recipes, techniques, and a dedication to doing it right rather than taking shortcuts. She almost never took shortcuts with food. Everything came from the same basic ingredients, but she could make each dish sing.
Mi suegra loved her family with a fierce quality, she would go to bat for you if she sensed an injustice and would not back down. She raised a large family, often never sure of their next meal, and every one of her surviving children went to college. She was determined that they would have a better life and, by golly, she made sure they did it, sometimes despite themselves.
In the time that I knew her she was the community grandmother, “la abuelita.” She was as interested in the lives of the second, third, and fourth generation of kids in town as in her own family. She fostered that community that I talked about at the top and held it together by constantly calling and checking in with everyone in her epic Rolodex in addition to little gifts of food.
Other Mother Figures in My Life
I am also thinking about my Great Aunt Franny who was a professional singer, teacher, and became my confidant during my very difficult twentieth year. She also opened her home to me when I needed it. She shared with me some of her struggles to figure herself out, and a deep early trauma. I am forever grateful for her opening herself up to me, a callow youth, so that I could perhaps understand her perspective on life. I learned to attempt to see the long view, and that fear can be a very powerful anchor, but if you embrace it, you can build a life that you love. She loved the life that she eventually built for herself, but it took years and courage. She also taught me some of her cooking secrets, and how to be bold in design.
There are more that come to mind, each special in her own way, each that have influenced me and the woman I have become. Here is a long overdue appreciation. Thank you. I hope to be as good a mother and as interesting a person as those who have mothered me and am working on it every day.
All the other MULTICULTURAL mamas out there
Thank you for all that you do, often with no recognition. Thank you for making cultural richness in the lives of your children a priority. Thank you for making sure both traditions are honored. Thank you for being you and sharing this journey of multicultural motherhood with me.
Please share your stories of those who mothered you, whether that person was related to you or not. What did you learn about the world and about being a strong person from the mother figures in your life?
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