In 1963, the Easy-Bake Oven was introduced to millions of future little bakers around the world. And I was one of them. Excited, didn’t quite come close to that tickled-pink moment when my mother placed it in front of me, all wrapped in a box and bow so beautifully. And it wasn’t even my birthday! I had no grand illusions what this strange miniature avocado green replica, complete with Betty Crocker cake mixes would produce. Any idiot could figure that one out in seconds. But it didn’t bother me. In my young mind I saw this as an opportunity to flex my tiny fragile wings of creativity and fly. It was also there in the kitchen baking side-by-side with my mother that a bond began to cement and the blossoming of an awareness, one surrounding her and all those many, many wonderful things she would, in time, come to do for me.
Things I didn’t always appreciate. But took very much to heart until I was ready to understand the message. And this was in spite of the fact she stemmed from a long line of Jewish women who brought with them this instinctual sense of needling guilt they felt compelled to pass along before they died, like salmon swimming upstream. I looked beyond it. Well beyond it I suppose because I knew, also instinctually, that there would come a day in the not so far away future when I looked into the mirror and it would be her face staring back—not mine.
In my sixty-two years on this planet, I’ve often thought about the complexity of mother-daughter relationships. How the stories behind them are not always so simple, rather hard and even heartbreaking. But behind those stories is a love that transcends, that connects a moral compass pointing home. Always pointing home. Even for me. Yes, growing up I wore that “badass daughter” badge like nobody’s business. And that she remained vigilant to see me through those times, told me I needed to start paying attention. I needed to listen and I needed to learn.
I think it comes down to this: As much as I’d love to keep Hallmark and 1-800 Flowers in business, I can’t set aside just one day out of the entire year to honor my mother. Nor can I possibly squeeze into a twenty-four time frame a verbal list of all those incredible sacrifices, those things she’s taught me about life, about being the kind of woman, the kind of mother I need to be, the meaning of unconditional love, that marriage is hard fucking work, (however neglected to mention some weren’t worth the effort), how to have grace in the face of death, not to slouch, make sure I take care of my skin earlier than later, and that friends are those people who stick around long after the shit hits the fan…I simply can’t.
Many years ago I experienced something uniquely my own: the presence of mindfulness. In other words I had this “aha” moment. A formative split second realization while sitting at my sister’s deathbed, that today is all I have. And if I don’t show my mother how I feel about her and NOW in the simple and ordinary ways: a phone call, a kind and patient word, a visit and an “I love you,” I’d regret it for the rest of my life. Hard to believe in the middle of all that shit I had a wake-up call. But if not then, when? Right?
I’m lucky that my mother is still with me. And while the tables are now turned and it’s me showing her a thing or two in the kitchen, as well as helping her work through the woes of transitioning from the stone age to the digital age, and acting as her steadying arm—I’m okay with that. More than okay.
You know, we all have our heroes. They come to us in the most outrageous of shades, packages and happenstances. Mine just so happened to come in the form of a cute, eighty-seven year old lady named Mom.