Every last drop of it.
About kisses on foreheads, marriage vows, standing my ground, praying for change, making soup, has come from you.
What I know of tradition, of making cookies, of the importance of wearing sunscreen and reading books: gifts from you.
You taught me to see the light in the darkness. You taught me to walk. You showed me that a mother's love is an invisible cord, a tether of safety, not broken by miles or wanderlust or plane rides across oceans.
"I will always love you," you told me as I sat on your lap, "no matter what you do."
"Even if I get in trouble at school?" I asked, curious about how much love there was.
"Even if you get in trouble at school."
"Even if I crash a train?" For my five year old imagination, a train crash was the worst of the world's horrors.
"Even if you crash a train."
"And what if I get put in jail for robbing a bank, even if I didn't really rob the bank?"
"Even then, Mary-Bear, even if you rob a bank, I will still love you. I will always, always love you, no matter what you do. I am your mother."
Even all these years later, I remember so clearly the lessons you taught me.
And despite the inevitable drama of my teenage years, my sassy tongue and rolling eyes,
it was you I called when I needed something unspoken, comfort that really and truly, only a mother can give:
Mom, I can't finish grad school. This is too much. (You talked me back from the ledge.)
And later, when I moved to England to prove that I could, "Mom, I hate it here. It's dark at 4 pm and they eat butter on their turkey sandwiches." You sent me a care package, covered in sparkly stickers and filled with tokens from home.
And when I had good news, "Mommy, Don asked me to marry him!" and then a few years later
"Are you sitting down? I'm pregnant!"
And it was you, when I was in labor, absolutely unable to talk as my head rolled to the side in contractions, 13 hours after my water had broken, 26 hours in hard labor, I looked to you, and no words were needed. You reached over, with your cool hands and your endless supply of clean, damp washcloths, and wiped my forehead. Blood all over the hospital sheets, the monitors beeping all around me, my heart rate, my unborn child's heartbeat, dropping dropping dropping green flicks on a black screen. You were there with me. When Dr. S came in and said, "I'm worried, this baby needs to come out now." When my sweet husband cried over his wife and baby because there was a chance things would not be okay, you were there. As I closed my eyes, I heard you praying over us.
You taught me that it's okay to cry. An invaluable lesson.
You taught me that it's important to have dinner together, sitting at a table.
You taught me that babies need to be rocked. And that I should use my china. And decorate for Christmas. And that it's okay to take a sick day every once in a while and get a fancy haircut. And that lipstick can do a lot for your mood. That I should always carry Kleenex in my purse, and extra "feminine products" just in case, and pay my own way, and never have more than three things on my plate at a buffet.
All the love and rushing hope and peace and protection I want to wrap my son in,
you felt for me. Feel for me.
Thank you, Mom.
Thank you for teaching me how to be a mother, too.