leaving my mark

Mother's day, I have to admit, does not hold a special place in my heart. Perhaps it's wrong of me, a mother, to admit that. I think it stems back to the Mother's Days of my childhood.  It seemed that what my mom really deserved or needed on Mother's Day was a day off.  Instead she got crappy handmade gifts from our elementary school days and fresh lilacs stole from the neighbors' lilac tree. (She loved them, don't get me wrong... but she deserved more.) What she really deserved or needed was to take a moment to grieve the untimely loss of her own mother.  Instead she got half hearted attempts at breakfast in bed or outings planned to look like the pages of a Lands End catalog, with little girls in dresses and boys in sailboats.  What she really deserved or needed was more help around the house everyday, not a Hallmark card once a year.

I have spent some time this afternoon thinking about my mom, her mom, her mom's death, my legacy as a mother, and theirs, and have decided one thing.  I have decided that your mark, as a human, has nothing to do with where you are buried.  My mom's mom has a little plot at the cemetery, where her name is etched in metal and a vase sits empty, waiting for flowers to fill it.  

As I rocked Wyatt to sleep for his nap, I started thinking that that spot, where her name, Beverly, sits in a field of grass full of other people's names and life dates, is not the mark she left on the world.

The marks she left are in her daughters.  My mom's use of the term, "I have a bone to pick with you"; the way she puts her hand between her thighs if she's cold; my aunt's habit of making piles on her kitchen table; and my other aunt's incredible artistic ability.  She left pieces of herself in them, in her three girls, and they, in turn, have passed those pieces on to us, all nine of us grandchildren.  She's there, in my name (Rochelle Beverly, officially) and she's there, in the bouts of depression some of us have suffered.  She's there in our love of nature, gardening, and home.  In our love of painting, love of animals and love of coffee.

She's there.

That, I think, is what Mother's Day should celebrate.  The way that mothers, all across the world, pour themselves into their offspring, all day, everyday, in hopes that a small part of them will take hold in their children, and sprout to form a bigger and better world in their children's children's children.

For me, I find the expectations I have of holidays just set me up for disappointment.  So I have lowered my expectations.  (Except my birthday. That one, I will not give up.)

And so this year, for Mother's Day, I'm having Leah over to watch the last episode of Survivor.  And I'm planning on reading Oh The Places You Will Go to Wyatt as many times as he asks.  And I'm prepared to do nothing but play Play-Doh Ice Cream Shop all afternoon with the twins.  There will be no fancy dinner plans.  No exciting outings.  Instead of expecting an amazing gift or effort that tries to convey gratitude for all I do for our family, I have been collecting these moments as I go along.  

Like last night when Logan prayed that he was thankful for the picnic we had.  Or night before last when Wyatt woke up and in his saddest, most desperate voice called over and over, "I want mommy. I want mommy. I want mommy."  Or when Jack, as I was reading Junie B. Jones, his favorite, wrapped his arms around my neck and whispered, "I love you," in my ear.

Those moments, those collected drops of sweetness, are all the gratitude I need for being their mom.  I don't need a card or flowers or a gift.  I will gladly accept them, sure, but their appearance or lack of appearance doesn't prove my children's gratitude.  Their actions all year do that.

The way they are, the people they are becoming, are all the proof I need that I am leaving my mark.  

"I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me.  
They have clung to me all my life."
-Abraham Lincoln


Alida said...

Shelly that is so touching. I think Mom's still like the home made (nothings) because it makes the kids so proud. They can't hardly wait for their Mom's to open the little home made gift.
Have a nice mother's day.
Love Alida

Amanda said...

Brought me to tears. I am having a harx week with my boys. One has been home sick all week....and i am very emotional today. This really really hits home to me. I dont like holidays that put big expectations on us for that one day. Its so much pressure....and more times than not feelings are hurt when those high expectations are not met. As i have aged i have learned to have no expecations for these made up days and be greatful for whatever unfolds

Marilynn Raatz said...

Oh my smart girl! I love you! You get it and your big boys aren't even 5 yet. Why did it take me so long? I missed my mom so much. It clouded MY mother's day celebrations for a time.
I really did appreciate my gifts from you kids. And your love for me. I am so grateful I have parts of my mom, and have given you kids parts of me. That means so much. I love being a mother. And I love being a grandmother.

Marilynn Raatz said...

Forgot to add, you are the best - letting the boys play in the puddles!! Those smiles - I can't wait to hug those boys!!

Rox said...

Oh, Shelly I loved this post. I thought a lot about Grandma Beverly when I was pregnant with Ferris on Mother's Day.
I'm proud of you for letting the boys play in the mud! I bet they'll be talking about that for a long time. The second to the last picture... too cute. Ferris looked at the pictures, I said, "What do you think about that?" He said, "Good. But I wanna go there and jump in the puddles. Can we go there?"

Tab said...

Another great post! The last two weeks my mom has been visiting and helping with my boys since I had #3, and today I dropped her off at the airport to go home. I have been crying off and on (mostly on) all day long. After watching her with my kids, it reminds me of the many ways I want to take after her and how I want to raise my kids.

Barb Miller said...

Beautiful post, Shelly! And I love your mom's comments!