I woke up this morning thinking about my mom and the absolutely beautiful woman she is. Today is her 80th birthday and I am deeply grateful that God continues to gift us with her life.
I hear it over and over and over again. “Your mom is a saint.” She’s not simply a good, good person. She’s a saint. I’ve learned to accept that perhaps she is, and unlike many women, I wish I were more like my mother.
My mom carried 10 children in her womb, delivered us naturally, and took care of all of us. As far as I’m concerned, this alone should be enough to qualify her for sainthood.
I lived in the house with us. And it was a wonderful, noisy house with loads of love and fun, but it also had its fair share of the typical sibling rivalries, squabbles, and kids who always needed something or had a question that just had to be answered. In my mind, I’m thinking my kid times 10. No way!
Can you imagine this type of person who has enough love and patience for 10 individual personalities trying to find their way in the world? Can you imagine worrying and fretting over not one or two or even five but 10 children? Parenting is scary, scary business, and I shutter to think of the challenges ahead for my one kid. I can’t imagine having to walk with 10 heartbeats floating around in this world.
Mom with my sister Karlette (RIP) and nephew Eric
I distinctly remember my mom taking all of us kids on the bus to Canal Street in New Orleans [Canal Street was the shopping center of New Orleans then]. There might have been only eight or nine of us then, but we’re all pretty close in age. How did she do that? With nothing less than amazing organizational skills and child management skills.
This explains why our house was impeccable at any time of the day–even with 10 kids. Unexpected guests might have been met with an apology for her “messy” house, but they probably looked around confused. My mom’s house was [and is] always clean. There was no scrambling to clear the clutter when uninvited guests arrived. I don’t even know how she managed that with all of us running all over the house?
And just like our home, we were always clean and dressed and fed well with home-cooked meals every day. This is no overstatement. My mom cooked every. single. day. for twelve people. My mom’s version of fast food? Burgers and fries she made herself that were way better than anything we could have purchased at a restaurant.
Mom with me on my wedding day.
Mom and my little one at 50th anniversary celebration.
Mom let us grow and gave us wings. No matter how many times we came to her with a problem or situation, my mom never directed our actions. She may have made a comment or two about the situation, but she never told us what to do or tried to manipulate us into doing what she considered the “right” thing. If we made the wrong decision, she let us fall and learn from our mistakes. She was still mom, loving us without judgment and allowing us to become.
My mom sacrificed for us in ways that continue to impact our lives. I once asked her what was her dream career. She answered that at one point she wanted to be a nurse. That would have been the perfect career for her. She has a calm and comforting nature that others are drawn to and that would have been so beneficial in nursing. She chose, instead, to nurture the 10 of us into productive members of society.
I know, nowadays, we celebrate mothers who juggle family, careers, community obligations and still find time for themselves, but there was an incredible amount of security for us in knowing that mom was [still is] always there and would always find a way for the things we wanted/needed.
Besides qualifying for sainthood because she put up with us crazy kids, mom is a saint because she put up with my dad. My dad is a wonderful person, but he and my mom are almost complete opposites. He is always ready for a party while she prefers the quiet of home. He spends a lot of time on Facebook baiting his friends and watching CNN and the other news channels while she sits quietly reading. He loves long debates. She’s not having it. She says “her piece” and nothing more. She’s not having the back and forth for too long. My dad goes on and on and on.
Mom and Dad in the early years.
I think God chose my mom for us because only a person with her character and spirit could love us all to health and wholeness. With her quiet spirit, she’s not easily unsettled, so people’s issues (read: craziness) don’t faze her. She has a heart of gold and always sees the good in people. She welcomes all and listens without judgment. She is the embodiment of forgiveness. She forgave our “wrongdoings” without making us feel rejected or small, and taught us how to forgive. If we went to her with some “offense” committed against us, she’d basically tell us to shake the dust off our feet and move on. That bit of her is so ingrained in me that I can’t hold a grudge if I wanted to.
My mom has a fierce, uncompromising faith that is simply inspiring. It is this faith that got her through the most difficult moments of her life and that prays her children through almost unbearable circumstances.
Of course, she’s not perfect–she is human after all–but I’ve not encountered anyone in my life whom I want to emulate more.
Happy Birthday, Mama, with all my love…