Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Perfect Mother's Day Gift?

Originally Posted on the Common Threads Blog
Centre Daily Times, May 9, 2008

President Woodrow Wilson officially designated the second Sunday in May as a national observance of Mother's Day, in 1914.

And since then, we have found myriad ways to commemorate it - with flowers, gifts, calls, visits, cards, and special gestures, including taking Mom out to dinner. The National Restaurant Association says that Mother’s Day is the second most popular day to dine out, with about 38% of adults heading to a restaurant (the most popular reason is for a birthday celebration)

My daughter looks forward to eating out when we travel, or when we are busy, or when we go out for some other reason. Unlike me, she would probably like to go out for dinner on Mother’s Day.

But I grew up in India, where my family typically did not eat out, unless they had to. And as an adult, I find that I enjoy eating out sometimes, but usually prefer home cooked meals.

For me, there is something special about food cooked by those who know you, made specifically with you in mind. As when made by people (parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, friends) who know your individual tastes and preferences. As a friend of mine said, “It is made with love for you, and that is hard to find elsewhere.”

Perhaps that is why, when I go back to India to visit my parents and other family, I find myself wanting to only eat at home. I enjoy our family time together, both while creating, and partaking of the food.

Taking my mother out to dinner for any celebration would not work, because she considers food prepared at home supreme to all others.

When I call her to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day, she thanks me graciously, but I know that she believes that a mother is to be valued every single day – that every day should be Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day and Grandparents’ Day and Children’s Day and so on).

And she does not care much for things, so gifts of things are ruled out.
What she does care for are relationships, embodied in connections and time spent together.

So a phone call would be a good gift. And perhaps there can be a gift in the content of the conversation.

Perhaps I could share with her that I do finally “get” some of what she said and did when I was growing up.

I can tell her that I am grateful for her persistence at the daily routines of mothering, for always showing up and being there for me.

That I now realize the extent of the hard work she put into sustaining the daily rhythms of our lives.

That I value the nuggets of wisdom she imparted daily, in the midst of ordinary routines, wisdom gleaned from scriptures, stories, common sense and her own experiences.

I can tell her that these nuggets are the founding steps of my evolving philosophy of life.

I can also tell her that she was right, when she told me that I would eventually understand her words and actions, when I have a child of my own. Because I have begun to understand.

As I think of the possible content of my phone call on Mother's Day, I remember the words of a friend’s adult daughter.

She shared with me that she truly valued her parents now. “But don’t tell them, yet,” she whispered with a mischievous smile.

I hope, though, that she has already told them, on some very special day, or better yet, on an ordinary one.

I know her parents would cherish this knowledge of their value to her.

The knowledge that the phase of “rolling her eyes” has changed into an appreciation of them, and of all the rhythms they created, day in and day out, as they wove the matrix of her life and her memories.

Now that I am a mother, I know that if this was the conversation at any mother’s day dinner, it would certainly constitute the perfect gift.

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