I love the mother you taught me to be.
From the time you brought me home from the hospital and attentively saw to my most basic of needs, to the time you sat with me as I faced a devastating divorce and my world seemed to crumble at my feet in a destructive wake of denial, and everything we dealt with in between.
I know now when you dropped me off at kindergarten the first time, you cried private tears from the front seat of your car before pulling away. And you said a silent prayer for me to get through the day that, and every other, day to follow.
I know now when you wiped the tears from my face after my first heartbreak in high school, you were silently thinking back to your own heartbreak early in life and wishing you could take that cup from me.
You recalled your own emotional turmoil, but it was nothing compared to that of seeing the pain in your daughter’s eyes.
I know now when your parents died within a year of each other, you felt as if the world had harshly slapped you in the face. You felt like an orphan, standing on the precipice of a world you had no clue how to navigate without the very pieces of your soul that fundamentally made you who you are.
I know now when I suffered my first miscarriage, your heart broke right along with mine. You knew the pain I felt as you had been there years before. Yet you remained strong . . . for me. You knew I needed a shot of tough love so as not to dissolve into the sinking pit of grief that threatened to bury me alive.
I know now when you said no, you meant it for my own protection. You saw things I did not see. You knew things I had not yet encountered. You wanted to save me from me and tried to protect me from situations that could have meant harm to your little girl.
I know now when I left for college, you cried way more tears than I did.
While I was out having fun with friends and tasting my first sip of long-awaited and delicious freedom, you were sitting at home, watching movies we used to watch together and wondering what your little girl was doing without her best friend. Without you.
I know now you always wanted the heel of the homemade bread you made for Sunday dinners. But you pretended not to because you knew I wanted it instead. The sacrifice was easy to make. It was not even a sacrifice because it was part of you that experienced the pleasure of that fresh out of the oven, warm, buttery goodness. You were content with a regular piece while you allowed me the most coveted part of the loaf.
I know now you denied yourself new clothes, jewelry, accessories, and beauty appointments because you could not afford to indulge in your own fashion while simultaneously giving all you had to mine. I know you saw other women in new clothing and taking girlfriend trips or having happy hours all around you. But you were happy to go to work to help support your family and give your only child everything you always had (or desired) as a young girl yourself.
I know now you prayed more for me than I ever prayed for myself.
You prayed for my happiness, safety, peace, and to find my way in the world. You prayed that no matter what life threw at me, I would be strong enough to handle it—with or without you.
I know now the love a mother feels toward her children is comparable to none other in this world. It is a bond that stands the test of time, physical dominion, and ability to be present with one another. It is an imaginary line of tenderness, protection, and pure, unadulterated passion that burns brighter than the north star against the blackest of nights.
I know these things now because of the mother you were to me. Because of the mother you are to me. Because of the mother you will be to me until your last day or mine.
I see you in the love I have for my sons. I recognize the love that ignited within my body when I first found they were growing inside. I vow to love them with the same fierceness, passion, and loyalty you have always shown to me.
I know now that being a mother is the one thing on this earth I was meant to be. Because of your love, I am able to love my children in a way no one else ever will.
I know now.