Mother’s Day and Colorful, Vibrant Memories of What Can Be

Today is Mother’s Day in many parts of the world though not all. Mother’s Day is a celebration paying homage to a mother within a family or as an individual, motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers on society. For the last 13 years, it has been a day of remembrance of my mother — when my mind is flooded with her memories more than usual. When I was a child, my mother was a person that was level-headed, strict, and disciplined but also warm, loving, and humorous. Like any child, there were times I loved her and did not like her (oh, the times doing all the chores we, my sister and I, did not want to do and would have traded with playtime!) Her steadfastness, patience, and unwavering ways would pay off for us, her daughters – later in life.

In short, we were raised entirely differently than many other children. Our mother raised us to question everything, explore independently, and express ourselves however we felt. We were encouraged to fail and try again, given a general idea or point of view, and cheered to find our perspective. At the time, we realized that it was an exciting way to let us find our way, yet we became aware of how much it put us at odds with our classmates and friends. An “inclusive” upbringing turned into an “exclusive” world. However, my sister and I were fortunate to have that juxtaposition with our parents. Our mother and father could not have been more different in their views of life, if not diametrically opposite. Dad would conform, but Mom would not. Dad was pharisaically religious; Mom was spiritual but not religious. It prepared us for reality and how to face both beliefs toward life and society.

When our family went through multiple relocations due to my parents’ separation and divorce, our early upbringing proved indispensable in dealing with new situations and people. Managing our circumstances was challenging but also brought a sense of liberation. I appreciate my mother for not raising us to follow authority unthinkingly. She set an example for us, her biological daughters, and all those chosen daughters she accepted into her life. From students, fellow writers, and poets to any woman younger than her from all walks of life. Including my wife, whom she considered a daughter because her generation’s biases prevented her from admitting that love is love – yet, in that sense, she loved above and beyond more than many mothers did, do, or are willing to.

As mentioned earlier, my mother was firm, resolute, understanding, and patient. Despite her unwavering steadfastness, my mother was a dreamer at heart. She had a passion for writing, having published several books, taught language and literature classes, and contributed to newspapers and magazines until her later years. In her early life, she enjoyed drawing and painting, a pursued hobby. Eventually, she transformed her love for drawing into a modern shorthand, striking a balance between artistry and the use of emojis. I came across a set of my mother’s drawings I have kept all these years, along with a handwritten note from a few years back wishing my wife and me a happy birthday (we are a few days apart). The latter will illustrate the “modern shorthand” bit I referred to.

I am not anywhere as talented as my mother was, though genetics has had its imprint on me in various ways and branched out my creativity in other areas. The following drawings are over 70 years old; they make me smile just as much as when I first saw them decades ago. They were drawn during and immediately after World War II and went through many moves, homes, in binders, in boxes, in all kinds of weather, from attics to basements. I have a handful of things from my mother, but these speak every day of the many facets of her character, thoughts, and dreams. They illustrate her resilience and the balance between light and dark, hope and despair, want and need, good and bad. Thank you, mamma, for all your love, inspiration, and insight.