Sunday, May 12, 2013

Three Mothers


I remember asking my mother once when you began to feel like a grown-up. I was in my late 20’s at the time, so this was about a decade ago. I was already a doctor although still in residency training, and I was a homeowner, and by anyone’s measure a responsible adult. But I didn’t feel very adult, so I asked my mom about it. She said that having kids helped her feel more like a grown-up. Which I have also found to be true. I feel like more of an adult now than I did three years ago. Although I still feel like a big kid myself sometimes, more capable and knowledgable of course, but overall just a bigger child trying to help this smaller child get things done and figure things out. So I’m not really sure when you settle into steadily feeling like an adult. Maybe you don’t, really.

As a child, I am fortunate to have three mothers in my life, each of them different and each of them teaching me something different. My first mother is my mom, the woman who gave birth to me and raised me. She taught me to be caring and nurturing. We were talking this weekend and she is still the office “mom” at her job; she is the person who brings chocolates and keeps a sewing kit in her desk. She taught me to work hard and keep my promises. My mom is the type of person who will get the job done, no matter what. She goes above and beyond but doesn’t see it as anything special. My mom taught me to love G-D, and to trust his love for me and other people. When I get confused about theology I remember what my mom taught me. G-D made us, he loves us, each of us, the way we are. My mom loves G-D and she shows it by treating other people with compassion and kindness.

My second mother is my step-mother. She came into my life when I was about 14 or 15. Our relationship wasn’t easy in the beginning. Not that I ever fought with her or disliked her, or that she disliked me. It was more that I didn’t understand her or know how to connect. My sister connected with her right away but it took more time for me to find common ground. My step-mother is a very honest person, to the point of being blunt, which was shocking for me at first but I find refreshing now. She is athletic and creative; she goes on yoga retreats and walks three miles a day and makes her own pottery. She grows her own orchids and has about 50 of them, all in good health and blooming. She is confident and knows her own style and she never seems to be afraid of anything. She is a business owner and, like my own mother, was a single parent. My step-mother has helped me to loosen up, to take more chances. She also taught me the value of patience and persistence. She never gave up on me even when I was distant and quiet. She kept reaching out to me and finding ways to connect.

My third mother is my mother-in-law. I met her when I was 19 and first started dating her son. She welcomed me so lovingly, which is a big deal as my husband is Jewish and I am Christian. She could have been rejecting or even just cool towards me, but instead she has always made her home my own. My mother-in-law is a fabulous, stylish, sophisticated woman. She travels all over the world, including to places like Myanmar and Turkey and Morocco that many people don’t ever reach. Her home is a beautiful space filled with incredible art. She also knits and has a ball shopping at Costco and Big Lots. My mother-in-law has taught me to knit, which has become my favorite craft. She models a life engaged with the world around her, travelling and attending cultural events and working for charitable organizations. She taught me about value; that some things are worth spending money on but that it is also okay to find good deals.

Perhaps it is easy, then, to still feel like a child, when you have three incredible mothers. Three very different women who love you, encourage you, and accept you for who you are. Not that they make me a child or don’t accept me as an adult, but rather that I see so much that I still want to live up to. I know I am blessed by the presence of each of them in my life. I know my daughter is blessed by her three grandmothers. I hope I live in such a way that she will be blessed by me.