“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” – Washington Irving
For this year’s Mother’s Day, I decided to forego the flowers and use my voice as a gift for my mom. I wanted to write her a letter to tell her what she means to me. How much she has impacted my life and how much I love her.
Where do I even begin? The task is arduous and complex. There is no simple place to start. It’s been 40.5 long years since she has been my mom. How could I possibly due her justice in one simple post? It isn’t possible. But I’ll try my best.
I know I tell you every day that I love you but I want you to understand how much you mean to me and how your love has made me who I am today. You gave everything for us three children. You left your dreams of becoming an artist, left your sanity in a sense to raise three active kids and maybe even left a bit of yourself for awhile. Yet I will never ever forget the fact that you were always, always there for us, each and every step of the way.
I will never forget your hugs and kisses goodnight. Your smiling face when we walked in the door from school. Your love of watching us practice dance, swim or play the piano. Your pride in watching us learn and excel. Your encouragement at learning life’s lessons, many times hard. Your constant, continual love and support. You were always there when I needed you. You never left. You never considered yourself. We were your world. You would give your life for us to be happy and have a beautiful, wonderful childhood. You taught us to love. To care. To see the world and embrace it. You saw us through thick and thin. Good and bad. Happy and sad. You have always been there beside me, even with the distance, I feel your presence near. I love you, Mom and can only hope that I can be as wonderful as a mom as you!
Your loving daughter Nicole
The top five things my mother taught me:
1. Love: My mom stayed home with us all throughout our schooling and spent so much time with us growing up. She could have worked or had a career but she was fortunate enough to not have to. Instead, she was able to choose us. She taught us the meaning of love. I never had to guess whether or not she loved me. Even if she didn’t tell me, which she always did, her eyes spoke of her love every day.
2. Strength: Growing up is hard. There are many tough roads along the way. Bullying on the playground, teenage years of friends being mean, guys dumping you. My mom taught me an important lesson early on. She taught me to be strong and to stand up for what was right. It took many years to have that kind of strength and courage to fight for what I believed in. But thanks to her, I now can and do, and it is something that makes me proud.
When I turned 21, I boarded a plane with a one-way ticket to France. My mom came along to bring me to my new home and travel to Spain (picture above in Segovia) for a week before my program started. I will never forget her saying goodbye. We hugged tightly in the Parc Montsouris, near my dorm room, and cried. I sat on that chair crying for a long time. It was the biggest step I’d ever taken in my life, even more significant than going off to college.
I took another big leap of faith back in 1995 when at 23 years old, I packed up my belongings in a Uhaul and moved to Chicago to be closer to my boyfriend Paul (who I eventually married). It was the first time in my life that I was financially independent, an achievement that I am proud of, and my parents came to visit me often. Here is photo of my mom and I on the lakefront path, my favorite running retreat.
3. Compassion for others: My mom taught me to care about other people and things. She taught compassion. When I was a young child, every summer we hosted a child from war-torn northern Ireland to spend the summer with us. It was hard to share yet we learned how difficult these children’s lives were at home. How much suffering they faced. It instilled a belief in compassion and giving back at a young age. It also reminded me of how fortunate we were to live in a loving, stable environment. My mother also dedicated many hours of her time volunteering. She helped others in need and shared her love of art with the classroom at my elementary school. She was always active in the community and a voice to be reckoned with.
A mother-daughter hug after a late night wedding. July 8, 2000. Chicago.
4. Motivation: Like my father, my mother was also a huge role model in encouraging me to excel in life. She wanted me to get good grades and be a good dancer and pianist. She supported my dreams from going to college, studying abroad, moving to Chicago and finally settling down and starting a family of my own.
5. Importance of family: My mother grounded us and kept us whole. She believed strongly in the importance of family, perhaps growing up in a large family of her own. During my childhood, we spent so much time together as a family that every single memory I have includes them. There are very few isolated memories at all. Together, we learned to ski and we hiked, traveled, swam, biked, ate nightly family meals and enjoyed being a family of five. Family was the most important thing in our lives and it remains so today. A value that I believe strongly in and am the most grateful for of all.
My mom was on the first plane out of Tucson when she heard the news I was going to be induced. She literally got off the plane, jumped a cab, and walked into the hospital seconds after the delivery of my son Max. Here she is holding her first grandchild in her loving arms, moments after his birth.
My mom had initially planned on staying for two weeks after the birth of my son Max. However, troubled times arrived shortly after his birth. I developed severe postpartum depression which was the most difficult, dark time of my life. There were many moments after the birth of my son that I thought I’d never make it. My mom stayed with me through it all, together with my husband by my side, seeing me through the next month of hell and back. I will never ever forget her for her love, support and dedication. She gave everything for me, to help me through it. I made it because of her and my husband Paul. I will forever be so incredibly thankful.
Mom, I feel so honored and blessed to have you as my mother. You have inspired me to be the best mom I can be for my children. It is an enormous task, raising healthy, productive and kind children of the next generation. Yet it is a task I’m ready to take on and thanks to you, feel confident I can succeed.
Happy Mother’s Day! I love you!