Most of us love our moms. They hold a special place in our hearts. Even Vanilla Ice wasn’t too cold to give a shout out, so you know moms are truly rad. When I first became a mother, I realized that the synonym for mom is sacrifice. It wasn’t just losing sleep and having to care for a totally dependent and helpless baby. It was a total shift in priorities. It was placing yourself completely behind the wants and needs of another. This can happen in any relationship. However, in adult relationships, there is usually an expectation of something in return. Not so with motherhood. The gives are always greater than the takes. Even when children begin to appreciate their moms (most often 3 decades into life), they will still never be able to give enough flowers, cards, and chocolates to come close to what their mothers have already given them. Such is definitely the case with me.
My childhood memories of my own mother are not necessarily the huge momentous occasions. What floods my mind most are the little details of the every day. I recall always having breakfast ready for me each morning before school. She constantly kept my bookshelf stocked so I could cry at the end of Charlotte’s Web and reread Little Women and Jane Eyre to my heart’s content. She would sometimes place her favorite newspaper columns in front of me and insist I read what Ellen Goodman had to say about women and social change long before I could fully wrap my head around those ideals. She made us voracious readers and limited our television to occasional stints of Sesame Street and The Cosby Show. She shuttled me to tennis, piano, acrobats, school plays, cheerleading practice, and girl scouts. She took us to whatever plays and concerts were available in our area. In all the taxiing, she graciously took turns with the radio from her preference of NPR to my brother and my top 40 favorite WKEE 100FM. Although at the time I thought it torturous, I grew up on Terry Gross and her Fresh Air.
My mom kept the cookie jar full of homemade treats. She sewed many of my clothes until middle school when I thought I was too cool to wear them anymore. But those Macalls and Simplicity patterns in my mother’s hands provided years and years of well-worn outfits and beautiful Easter dresses. She was a conservationist before it was trendy. Like other Korean immigrants who grew up in the aftermath of occupation and war, she never wasted anything. She established ways for us to love the Earth before Earth Day was widely celebrated. Even now when she throws away food, she utters, “Forgive us!” We grew up taking “Navy showers.” We never left a light on and always kept the thermostat at an uncomfortable temperature to reduce AC and heat usage.
She believed in most cases that less was more. I never had a million Barbie dolls. I think I may have had 3, only 1 of which was a “real” Barbie. I finally got one Cabbage Patch Kid well after they started losing their appeal and most peers had moved on to other trends. She was not one to follow the trends. It was so annoying and to my immature mind, hellish. But in hindsight, I appreciate how she gave me the gift of not having to have what everyone else had at the time. Instead I learned to value things for their timelessness more so than their fleeting popularity.
We always ate in the dining room for holiday meals and company. She made a full traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas meal. She taught us how to properly set the table. How a 1st generation Korean woman knew about Western place settings is beyond me, but we learned where to put each fork and knife and figured a way to fudge in the chopsticks when needed. We rarely ate out which meant lots of cooking from her. She not only fed our family but has fed countless others both in our home and by dropping off meals to those who were sick, grieving or in need of food and company. When we were little, my dad’s first Tae Kwon Do studio was in an old building with an attached apartment behind it. One day I noticed one of the children who lived there had on my old Tweety Bird shirt. I knew because the shirt had my name on it in black felt letters. (Please observe a moment of silence for 80’s fashion and my Tweety shirt.) She was donating constantly, and thinking of others was her M.O. She is probably on every non-profit’s mailing list and has several lifetime supplies of return address labels from each grateful recipient.
With all these and more unmentioned, I am most indebted to this memory: her prayers. I can still picture in my mind her sitting on the living room couch each early morning. While I was getting ready for school, she was whispering in the dark the entire time. Most kids think their parents are a little freaky at times. I was no exception especially when it came to the constant whispering. It wasn’t just in the morning on the couch. It was also in the car. I’d be trying to listen to Madonna in the back seat, while my mom would be whispering her non-stop prayers in the front. The greatest gift she has given is the gift of faith. She is the most godly woman I know. Her spiritual legacy continues to humble and challenge me in my attempts to grow and mature in depth of Spirit. I believe she has moved mountains with her fervent conversations with God, and I am a direct beneficiary of her labors of intercessory love.
Her other best present was her presence. I have too many memories to revisit because she was always there. She was not just available physically, but she also was there emotionally. She has always been my confidant, willing and able to discuss anything and everything to great depths. (Ok, not everything. My puberty talk was receiving the Judy Blume book, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Avoiding those awkward conversations may be another credit to her wisdom!)
When I became a mother, my genuine appreciation that started once I saw her wiping tears after she and my dad dropped me off to college expanded to unknown bounds. It wasn’t just that she came as soon as she could with both births and stayed several weeks at a time to help. During that time she did as she always does with visits to her children, she cooked, cleaned, laundered, rocked, held, attended to, supported and gave of herself to the point that my dad said she slept for two days straight upon returning home after Ethan was born. In spite of being an experienced mother, she honored my preferences for caring and raising my children. She advised but for the most part respectfully kept her differing opinions to herself. She has remarkably kept proper boundaries. Yep, that makes her a wearer of gold bangles and keeper of truth-telling rope, that is, Wonder Woman.
Besides the severe sleep deprivation and difficulties with nursing, I think another reason the newborn stage was so hard for me is because I was (OK, am) one selfish mutha. My independence died a slow, painful death. Even now, I struggle with it as a mother of two adorable boys. And yet, I see my own mom still giving of herself unconditionally and sacrificially. She is the picture of the gospel to me. I am pushing 40 and am still receiving her selfless care and generous help even when I am ungrateful, bratty, and failing to love her as she deserves. She embodies grace in this way. I think this will be the case no matter what my actual age. She is my mom, and she is da bomb. If I can be half the mother to my children that she was/is to me, I will consider Ethan and Connor blessed. WORD TO MY MOTHER.