My Mom has given me lots of things. But when I look at my life and try to see how my mother has influenced it most, I always think of the same thing: her overriding concern for others. To my Mom, making everyone happy is what counts. The "little" things, like fancy birthday parties and big expensive presents, well, they're nice, but the yardstick she uses to judge an event is always this; did everyone walk away happy?
Trying to make everyone happy is rarely easy. As a child, I hated always having to make everyone happy. I remember how many screaming matches and fights were involved in making sure that everything was "just perfect" for grandma, for my neighbors, for our friends.
We always had to have stale bread and apple sauce on hand for one grandma and fine silverware and china on hand for the other one. After each family event, we had to stand and dry every last dish rather than leave any in the dish drainer because as my Mom said, "that's how Grandma likes it."
I remember driving through a snowstorm to go to my cousin's Sweet Sixteen because my Mom said, "How would you feel if you had a big party and nobody showed up?" I stood there with the other ten people who had also braved the storm and complaining to my Mom, "How come nobody else had to go?" And I remember her answer, "Just think, Anna, since so few people came, it was even more important for us to come. Just because other people didn't do it, doesn't mean that it wasn't the right thing to do."
As a child, I never really understood this drive for perfection. Was it really so important? But as an adult, it seems that I just can't help following in her path. The fact is, I care. It matters to me if people are happy, if people come to events, if people are angry or upset with me. And I too, tie myself up in knots, agree to do all kind of things, whether I have time to or not, just so "everyone will be happy."
As a consequence, I always seem to be "the one." The one left watching the neighbor's children...and their dog. The one who is cooking three side dishes for the neighborhood picnic and running the school yard sale. My husband says to me "just say no." I tell him I will, but I rarely do.
I look on this present that I got from my Mom as a mixed blessing. Trying to make everyone happy is hard work and of course in reality, it never really happens. But when I look back at my life, I would still rather be the one who tried too hard, than the one who didn't try at all.
Mother's day is a bittersweet holiday for me. On the one hand, I am now a mother and I truly enjoy the love and appreciation that I get from my husband and kids on Mother's Day. On the other hand, I now live far away from my Mom and I do not get to spend the day with her. Yes, we call and send cards (thank god for those e-mail cards!), but it's just not the same. Each year, I feel sad that the closest I get to my Mom on Mother's Day is a phone call. This year, as I thought about Mother's day and what my Mom has given to me over the years, I decided to do something a little different. I decided to write about her.
So Happy Mother's Day Mommy and thanks...for caring.