Though the commercialization of Mother’s Day may overshadow the true meaning of the day – paying tribute to mothers or other motherly figures in our lives - I loved the gifts I both gave and received today, the most cherished is the blessing of being a mother to my daughter Odellia, who was a true miracle baby, and a grandmother to Gabriella and Jacob, eight and five.
We started the day, together with my son-in-law Richard and my husband Stephen, watching Gabriella in a play, moving along to a lovely lunch, after which Odellia, Jacob and I spent the afternoon buying seasonal planting flowers, which I potted for my daughter with the help of my grandchildren. Throughout this lovely day I kept thinking about the chipped cream porcelain woven basket, adorned with two roses on each side, that is in my possession, a Mother’s Day gift I had bought my mother with my savings when I was fourteen, in Israel. But it was really my mother who I was thinking about.
When I was growing up my beautiful mother Khaya suffered from severe recurring depressions. Perhaps she should have been hospitalized at that time rather than being treated by her own doctors, primarily with electroshock and heavy medication for which my father paid huge sums. He refused to have her institutionalized and separated from my sister and me, since she only suffered from her “nerve disease” in winter time, recovering mentally and often thriving in summer, becoming a mother who cared for her daughters, and being always over-protective of me, the fragile looking child I was.
When she was in good health I felt secured with her, and even loved, for she was the mother who wished she were sick rather than me when I was ill. She was the mother who took me to my favorite restaurant - a rare outing when I was a child - watching me eat the food I liked, ordering nothing for herself. She fought to place me in a better grammar school and went to school to defend me when necessary. She made for me the most beautiful Purim costumes, for most of which I won first prizes in school (Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the rescue of the Jewish people in ancient Persia). She was the mother who took me for my first bra even though, at fourteen, I did not yet need one, but she said that she wanted me to have pretty breasts when I grew up to be a woman. She was the mother who took me to the dermatologist to prevent acne and to the gynecologist when my menstruation was unsteady. She was the mother who made sure that my sister and I wore the finest clothes and that we ate the best food.
Though as a child, my mother regularly called me offensive names, unsuitable not only for a child’s ears, I loved her still. Did I think it was my fault that my mother suddenly turned into an unrecognizable woman when she suffered from her uncontrollable behavior when she was ill? Did I feel helpless because there was nothing I could do to help her? The answers to these questions I do not have. What I am certain of is the enormous compassion and love I felt for her in sickness and in health.
When I was thirty-four she asked me if she was a good mother to me. I told her that she was, doing the best she could. If she asked me the same question today, I would tell her it was a wonder how she managed at all.
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