re: mothers

I’ve been thinking about mothers a lot lately, maybe because Mother’s Day is coming up.

Parenting is hard duty.

Robert Smalls’ mother must have been extraordinary.

“I’d like to call my mother a saint, but our Lydia wouldn’t like that one bit, and she’d be right. She wasn’t a saint; she knew it, and that is, in fact, what made her so very good. She knew her own wounds and losses, she knew her weaknesses and her sharp edges, she knew her capacity for hatred as well as love — which so few ever know about themselves — and because she knew that in herself, she knew how to choose. She knew to choose both kindness and strength, both wariness and warmth, both firmness and forgiveness. She never lost her confidence in the ancestors, and she never lost her hope for the future. She knew which heart to feed. Hers was a heroic life, unsung perhaps, but not without impact.”

Mothers – and all those good people who foster and enrich the best in us while serving up grace and forgiveness when they see the worst in us – are so often the unseen, unsung heroes behind the heroes we know. Theirs are the steadfast, grounded, nurturing, guiding, correcting, loving voices and hands and hearts that plant the seeds, and pull the weeds wherever we’re growing, and then celebrate with us when we finally bloom. 

Lydia Polite. There’s no historical record beyond the reality that she was enslaved by the McKee family in South Carolina, and she was the mother of Robert Smalls. And yet – her impact, her contribution, her story is part of his story. 

How grateful I am for the good mothers of the world. 

My own mom is a wonderful mother – exactly who I’ve needed along the way.

We see eye to eye on most things – with a few exceptions (politics, and brussel sprouts). There’s never been a time that I wasn’t certain she loves me, and we’ve always been one another’s biggest cheerleaders. 

What would my life have looked like, I wonder, if I’d had anyone else as my mother? I’m so grateful.

I think about other moms I’ve known.

Mother’s Day, for all the commercial sentimentality, is a hard day for many. It’s not all roses and chocolates. Relationships are hard, messy, fraught. Memories are sweet, bittersweet, raw. Some of us celebrate wonderful mothers; some of us grieve toxic mothers. Some mothers celebrate motherhood; some mothers bear heartache, loss, unspeakable pain. 

To every mother and every child – of any age – my hope for you is this: that you know your worth, your beauty, your strength, and that you feed your good heart. You are enough. 


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