As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m reflecting more than usual on life lessons my mom taught me. It may have to do with needing her wisdom as our daughter becomes a teenager or wishing I’d better appreciated who she was while she was still here. Perhaps my forgetful memory is urging me to recapture moments we shared before my mind completely erases all I hold most dear of her. Or maybe I just miss her. Deeply.
I miss dancing with her, carefree and crazy in the kitchen between the boiling pot of spaghetti and the garlic-loaded salad. We danced to Neil Diamond and the Beach Boys and laughed until we cried, lost in the joy of joy.
I miss her hugs. When my mom hugged you, you felt it all the way to your deepest insides. She hugged your heart and your soul, and you felt loved and known and cherished all at once. I used to think that hugging my mom must be what it will feel like to get a hug from God.
I miss talking with her about everything, anything, whatever was of import to her, to me, to the world around us. She was a stay-at-home mom with only two years of college, but all topics were fair game: philosophy, theology, science, the latest movie seen or book read. She studied Hebrew for fun and loved Tom Clancy books. In the throes of discussion, her eyes crinkled in smiles or flashed bright with passion, fully engaged in the moment. Together we listened, shared and wrestled with ideas, disagreeing at times but coming out the other side enlightened, affirmed and broadened of mind and spirit.
I miss her chocolate chip cookies, her hair swooped into a French twist, and even her hot pink sandals. I miss how she called me Darling, as if it were my name, and adopted our friends by giving them nicknames and their own cups in our cupboards. I miss the scent of her perfume when she entered a room and its lingering after she left, making me feel that somehow the moment was a little less colorful, a little less bright with her gone. I miss how she loved and lived — fully, quietly, deeply — with arms and heart open wide to what was and is and one day could be.
Like most life lessons, learning happens more in the midst of the moments lived — and in how they are lived — than in what overt teaching can ever do. What is most valued, important and essential to life often passes to us without our awareness, until we pause to look back and recognize it.
In looking back, I see the values my mom planted deep in the soil of my heart, values such as freedom of spirit and joy, acceptance and growth, communication and honesty, God and family and love. Whether she did it intentionally, or was simply being who she was in the moment, I don’t know. But inbetween the dancing and laughing, the hugging and talking, the cookie baking and nicknaming, and reading and hair swooping, it happened. And it gives me hope. If it happened then with me, maybe it can happen now with our daughter — and for you with your children. Seeds planted, values caught, lessons learned, lives lived meaningfully, intentionally passing from generation to generation.
I miss my mom, deeply. But every time I dance in the kitchen with my daughter, the missing melds into joy, seeing how my mom’s heart now beats on in two.
In loving memory of my mom: Gail Schaffer 11.28.39 to 09.20.94