As we laughed about, both of us were unable to get cards in the mail on time this year, not because we don't love each other but because the day snuck up on us! Thankfully, we both understand and realize that being grateful for motherhood has nothing at all to do with a specific day being celebrated, and if you have to wait until that day to say "thanks" to your mom, than there is a lot more wrong with your relationship than not making Hallmark $3 richer.
But you know what? I did want to declare to the world how much I love you, how incredibly blessed I have been to be your daughter, and to tell you that I know that all that I am is in large part due to you.
I see you in me in everything I do. If I am a halfway decent mother, it is because of the example you set. So much of how I parent comes from you, and I wonder if you see that.
The love of books and the laundry baskets filled to overflowing with them comes from you traipsing me down to the library every summer to be in the reading club, or from you and Dad handing me $1 at a garage sale and letting me buy as many books as I could negotiate the seller into giving me for my paltry sum. It comes from the piles of magazines and my clothes closet being happily turned into a mini-library where you allowed me to have more books than clothes stored. And it comes from you sticking up for my passion with teachers who voiced their concerns that all I wanted to do during recess was read rather than socialize. How I appreciated you understanding that I had this need to be filled up with books! Today, I see our kids devouring them and am grateful for you and Dad making our home a literature rich environment.
You sacrificed so much for me. I remember you giving up a lot, including some pride, to ask for a payment plan at the music store so I could have my surprise wooden clarinet. As I wear my Walmart jeans and $4 T-Shirts, I recall all the nicer clothes you went without so that your kids could have decent school clothes and a few of the little extras that we couldn't have afforded otherwise. But I think the greatest sacrifice you have made has been over the past 10 years, as you have graciously settled for once annual visits from us (if we were lucky) as we scrimped, saved and struggled to build our family through adoption. You encouraged us to do what we needed to do to schedule lengthy travel trips overseas meaning we couldn't always afford to come visit or budget in the time as we knew we would need the time off for going to Kazakhstan. You never once complained and I know it has been very hard for us to be so far away and see one another so seldom...and you did it because you wanted me to experience the joy of motherhood.
There have been many times when I have looked back and realized that one of the single main reasons I have hung in there through extraordinarily challenging and often painful parenting experiences is due to the lessons you taught me back in Junior High. Remember when I entered 7th grade and suddenly the gifted program turned into a nightmare for me? I thought I was the dumbest kid on the planet, I couldn't live up to the teachers' expectations, and within about 3 weeks I wanted to take the easy way out and go back to regular classes, despite the fact that I had been in the program for years. I was faced for the first time with school actually being hard, and I wanted to bail out. You had the foresight to recognize what a pivotal moment this was for me and insisted that I stick it out, telling me that I was not going to be a quitter. I made it through, slowly gaining skills and in fact, that is the only time in my school career where I was taught to write. Thank you for being tough on me, there are 5 kids here who have benefited from that lesson and having a mom committed to riding out the hard times, and who is a tad more stubborn than they are has made all the difference in the world for them.
You showed me by example how to work hard and taught me stability. You stayed on a job working on an electronics assembly line for 20+ years. You remained one of the last employees before they moved all the jobs overseas, despite being one of the oldest employees left, and it was your amazing work ethic and dedication that helped keep food on the table and provided us with extras we never would have had without it. You also showed me that the grass may appear greener on the other side, but a bird in the hand is often better than two in the bush. Due to the times we live in, I have had more jobs than you would have ever imagined having, but have been essentially steady and "long term" versus most in my generation. Dominick and I have created a stable home for your grandkids to the best of our ability with as little turmoil as we can manage.
Being a mom means loving your children no matter what. How many times did I see that exhibited by you through the most wretched of circumstances? Still...you loved unconditionally.
My childhood was spent with our family having very little money, and yet somehow I didn't ever really realize that. Your ability to handle money so well kept us with decent food on the table, decent clothing on our back, and a few little luxuries along the way. You stretched that dollar as far as it would go, and you taught me how to do so as well. Beyond that, you taught me gratitude for that which we do have and not to covet what others have that we don't have. You taught me how to be content, a word we have joked about for years.
The most extraordinary thing you did though was to see the things you didn't like about yourself and try very hard to raise me to be different. Instead of history repeating itself with areas you saw as weaknesses, you turned it into a child rearing strength by being certain that in those particular areas you used different strategies than had been used by your own parents. You saved me from what you thought were your failings, and that takes enormous insight and wisdom.
The bar has been set high for me as I grow older, as my Mom is far hipper, and willing to be more flexible with her thinking (even if her BODY isn't! hahaha!) than most her age. Unlike so many others, you actually have become more open minded as you have aged, and you have shown tremendous personal growth, both spiritually and emotionally. I am very, very proud of you. You were the last person I expected to be supportive of our decision to homeschool, or to add yet again to our family when we decided to proceed with adopting the girls and yet there you go again, surprising me with your ability to stretch and see things from a different perspective as the world around us has changed.
I know there have been times I have hurt you deeply, what kid hasn't? I know there are times I have taken you for granted. Again, what kid hasn't? I know there have been moments of fear for my future, of worry as I faced a world that was ever changing, and moments of regret over things you think you didn't do right or wished you could have done differently.
You know what though? You did a grand job. Really. You nurtured me, you loved me, you encouraged me, you provided for me. I am doing the same for my family to the best of my ability. I am sure I can never do it quite as well as you did, but I'm giving it my all.
When I look into the faces of my own children, when I think of all that each has endured to one degree or another, I am eternally grateful that I had the mother I did...one who didn't abandon me and leave me for dead behind an apartment building in the depths of winter, one who didn't give birth to me in a hospital and walk away leaving me with a lifetime of unanswered questions, one who didn't abuse alcohol or drugs or murder her own mother.
All that you taught me is drifting to this next generation. Your great grandchildren will learn the lessons you taught me, as taught to them by your grandchildren. Thank you for providing me with the space to be who I was, for not forcing Barbie's down my throat and trying to make me wear dresses. Thanks for letting me play football with the guys, and for trusting my gut instincts when at 15 I turned to you after one date and told you "I think I am going to marry Dominick."...and for not laughing at me for what must have seemed a preposterous statement. Thanks for supporting my decisions, even if you would have done it differently. Thanks for your honesty in every single last little thing. Thanks for giving me a little extra rope as I matured a little faster than the other kids, your understanding and respect helped me not buck your authority but instead gave you even more.
I love you, Mom. I always have, and I always will. Thank you for all the little things that combine to make the big things.
You are perfect just the way you are.