“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”
I’m not sure when my mom first started reading this book to me, but the words still bring tears to her eyes. Today is my mom’s birthday. This beautiful women who brought me into the world has spent close to half her life raising me. Words cannot express my gratitude and thankfulness I have for my parents, but I’ll try and say a few things to share what my mother has meant to me.
I used to chuckle sort of awkwardly whenever my mom would read a story to us that would make her cry (Love You Forever, Goodnight Moon, and The Giving Tree to name a few). I guess back then I didn’t understand the depth of love my mom had for me or what those tears meant. Now, I cry whenever I read those words (frequently sent at the end of an email or card from my mom). One thing my mom has taught me is that emotions are okay. I can’t imagine what it would have been like being raised with the warped idea that “real men don’t cry.” I think I would have a lot more bottled up anger and agression then I do. I can remember many different occassions, sitting in my room, in the kitchen, on the side of the road, crying, and my mom was there with me, to comfort me, to listen to me, to allow me to feel, to truly feel. Thank you for teaching me it’s okay to cry.
Occassionly, I’ve heard the question asked, “what’s the most memorable saying or value you remember from your childhood.” I’m usually surprised by how many people’s most memorable things are negative. For me, by far the most memorable value I remember, and still hear today is that I can do anything. This is a strong testimony to my mom’s enthusiasm and pride in her children. To this day, my mom believes I could be an Astronaut or a professional baseball player if I decided to start now. Nothing is impossible for the children of my mother. And the amazing thing is, when you grow up hearing that, you really believe it. I really have always felt in life that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. I should point out, that this was never done in a way that made me feel dissappointed at failure, I never felt pressure that I would let my mom down if I didn’t win, or make good grades, or become famous.
You see my mom was there rooting for me every step of the way. Her patented cheer could be heard on the sidelines of my soccer games, karate matches, football, track, graduation, wedding, and even on the phone when I accomplish things here. And her enthusiasm is quite contagious to be honest. When the youth I work with brought home some outstanding grades, I couldn’t help but jump off the walls and cheer like my mom always has for me. You can’t help but feel good about the things your doing and the things you’ve done when she’s there cheering you along. And it’s not just her cheering that let’s you know she’s interested in you.
My mom loves people. Someone wrote me a kind note once about how I made them feel special, I get that from my mom. When you meet my mom, and let her have a few minutes in conversation with you, you’ll go away thinking she might have mistaken you for some TV celebrity. I’m not talking about getting your autograph and taking a picture with you, but my mom loves talking to people and hearing their stories. She’ll ask you questions all night long over dinner and you’ll realize your boring and mundane job is much more exciting then you realized (I should note that my dad also loves people, and asks lot’s of questions. Quite lucky, and sometimes greatly intimidated, is the person who joins us for dinner and faces the interrogation that is my parents. Very loved to be sure). And the truth is, the questions, the interest, the love, it doesn’t get old. Many afternoons during high school went like this. I’d come home off the bus and make myself a bowl of cereal or some ramen noodles. Mom would already be home or arrive shortly there after and we’d talk for hours, about the day, about life, about crazy ideas. Many evenings continued in similar fashion. Me usually sitting on the counter in the kitchen, chatting away late into the night. I can’t even begin to remember all the things we talked about for hours on end. The truth is I think I did most of the talking, my mom just sat listening excitedly, asking more questions and helping me grow and think in ways I probably didn’t ever consider before.
My mom is creative, and we have the people painted on the garage door to prove it. I think I was in seventh or eigth grade when my mom painted those dancing stick figures on our garage. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t embarrased at first. It’s hard for a middle schooler to maintain his idea of coolness and conformity when someone was dropping him off at home. We have a sign in our house that I think reads, “A wacky wild wonderful woman lives here.” Looking back now I realize I had a much more exciting and colorful experience then many people. It’s as if most people grow up in black and white, and we grew up with full color blaring. My mom painted the walls all kinds of funky colors (before anyone else thought it was cool), we had palm trees in the basement, our mailbox, and even our toilet set was painted. My mom taught me to think outside the box, to ‘dare to be different’ (she even gave me a cool bookmark that said that). I know the creative energy that was always flowing through our house had a profound affect on me. It’s taught me to question authority, question conformity and the status quo, and those are all very good things. One of our family’s favorite books, The Giving Tree, really is about our family. My mom has taught me to love life, to live it to the full. This is no time to walk around worried about what other people think of you. Don’t just dream dreams, live them. Live your life in color.
Thank you Mom, I love you, Happy Birthday!