The First Day

Apparently the roller coaster of the pregnant avel continues after the pregnancy ends….

 

Today is my *first* Mother’s Day.

My first as a mother.

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My first without my mother. 

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I have been having anxiety about today for weeks – ever since the first “Mother’s Day is coming!” email arrived in my inbox. I cringed every time I deleted another one. I cried as I entered giveaways on Facebook. I smiled as I looked at the little guy in my arms.

I read this moving piece from my dear friend Esther and thought of all the ways I could honor my mommie. I had grand ideas of what to write and say and do. I thought of the things both big and small that we we used to do together and how to incorporate them into a special ceremonial remembrance.

Then last night I got a text from my dad that said in part “you had a great example of what to do, now just love your child like she did” and I realized that I honor her every day. Every time I tell my son I love him. I every time I snuggle him close. Every time he wraps his tiny little hand around her necklace. Every day, in every moment, just by being the mom which comes naturally after having such an amazing woman as mine.

I realized that I am lucky to have had such an amazing mommie, who without being here to celebrate my first Mother’s Day as an Eema, is no doubt with me in everything I do as a mom every day.

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Life as an Adventure: My Mother’s Philosophy

There’s an old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Interesting, of course, can often mean traumatic, uncertain and oft-changing. Coming from South Africa (which was going through the end of the Apartheid era – we left in 1992), to Newfoundland (when the Cod fishing industry died almost immediately after we arrived), and then to Illinois (when the industry in town had just died), it seemed to characterize my childhood in a lot of ways. In big and small ways, I learned to survive adversity, or as I like to think about it, the adventure that was my childhood. In a way, I had it lucky. My parents and I were the center of calm – everything else around us would be falling apart, and we would deal with it.

But, then again, life is an adventure. It’s the only way to think about things – it’s another version of making lemonade out of lemons. A small example sticks out in my mind. In the middle of high school, turned out my school district was out of money and needed to pass a referendum in order to keep any of the honors classes (or the majority of teachers in the district). A similar referendum had failed just six months before, and we were petrified that it wouldn’t pass again. As demanding as it was to be an honors student in high school with lots of extracurriculars, it was terrifying to potentially be without all of that. My mom and I planned classes I could take at the local community college and getting me out of high school as quickly as possible. I was only barely 17 when I graduated anyway, so it was really terrifying to think that I could be graduating at barely 16. Luckily for everyone, the last-ditch referendum passed and we didn’t have to put plan D into operation.

We operated that way though. Something bad happens? Plans, alternate plans, plan C and plan D, all with the hope that one of them would work. It was rough on a kid. I was, in fact, a very tense teenager, in part having to do with the strange circumstances that I had grown up with.

In the end though, I learned a lot of valuable life lessons, chief among them how to deal with less than ideal circumstances. I remember clearly the days and weeks when my mom would talk about our great adventure, and specifically dealing with lemons and lemonade. Sometimes, it’s just about the attitude. Calling it an adventure made it less scary, and helped me focus on the positive aspects of what we were living through. Talking about turning lemons into lemonade made it an exercise in creativity, in exerting control where we could, as best we could and not just accepting a given situation. It also helped me understand, in a fundamental way, that we can make a difference in the world. If I can make my own life better, in rather undesirable circumstances, then I can make a difference in other ways through my own efforts.

So – I try to make a difference in the world. Because I can. Because my mother taught me I can. And you can too.

My Mother’s Chesed

Post by Melissa

While my mother did not teach me how to bake a challah or keep a kosher kitchen, and had no wise insights to share about mikvah when the time came – she taught me a much more important lesson.  My mother taught me through her own actions about chesed (kindness).  Judiasm recognizes the value of this and stresses the outward nature it must take on. I am happy to share some ways in which my mother has always lived this, and allowed me to learn by osmosis something which I am so blessed to have made a part of my life.

I grew up in a house about a mile from my high school, which quickly became an easy gathering place.  My mom loved having everyone over and always made sure there was a tub of red vines and plenty of Dr. Pepper (our snacks of choice).  If we had a long day at a practice, rehersal,  competition or performance, she made sure the hot tub was ready for us upon our return too.  Not only did she make our house a welcome space for everyone (one of my friends even had a suitcase and toiletries in the spare bedroom just in case it was to late to drive the dark roads back to her house), she made sure to know who was there.  She became everyone’s second mom, and all of my friends, and my brother’s before me, called her Mom or Mommie, never Mrs. LastName.  To this day part of reconnecting with old friends, is them asking me “how is mom?” and being genuinely interested in the answer.

In fact, I recently was able to spend a few hours reconnecting with one of my closest friends from high school, who had a particularly close connection with my mother.  He shared something new with me, which I think will help further this post.  My friend studied theatre in college, and was a part of a very small production in which the main characters were very culturally Jewish.  After the show, some Jewish patrons asked my friend (who does not “look Jewish” by anyone’s stereotypes), if he was Jewish.  He replied that he was not but that he had been raised by a Jewish mother enough to own that experience.  It was an important moment for him and truly speaks to how my mother engaged with my friends.

Without a house full of teenagers and both of her kids living in different time zones, she has to find other recipients of her chesed.  Now she makes baskets for her coworkers when they have a baby, and makes them little presents for holidays.  Mom always sends birthday, anniversary, holiday and just because cards.  If she sees something someone close to her once mentioned they were looking for, she buys it to give them when they are having a rough day.  She takes her friends shopping, and when they don’t have the right size in something they love – she goes to a different store later to buy it as a surprise.  I got to witness the giving of one such shirt this week, and how much my mother’s friend’s face lit up as she opened it and then how much my mom’s did in return.

That is what true chesed is all about.  Doing it purely for the sake of making someone else happy.  My mother taught me through her actions that money is nothing in exchange for making someone’s day a little brighter.  I hope that is something which I never forget, and am able to pass along to my children as seemlessly as she passed it on to me.

Happy mothers day to all our readers, and espescially my Mommie who truly lives gimilut chasadim (acts of kindness) every moment, of every day.