My Mom was always up for playing a game and if there wasn’t a game to play, she would make one up – especially when I was little, and especially if it helped her to occupy my time.
We played one game every week that was a cross between Tic-Tac-Toe and Connect-the Dots.
Alternating turns, the object was to win squares by connecting the dots, one line at a time.
Whoever had the most squares at the end, won the game.
So every Tuesday, after walking to get me from school on the Southside of Chicago, she’d take me by the hand and walk with me to the bus stop.
After climbing aboard, she’d hand me a pencil and a small, spiral notebook and challenge me to a game.
Dizzyingly busy connecting my dots, I barely noticed the second bus that we had to take, in order to catch the train to our final destination:
While I was singing, tap-dancing, and leaping through the air in a ballet tutu for the next few hours, my mom sat on the sidelines, smiling proudly.
Decades later, I asked her what she would have liked to have done in her life, if she hadn’t been the mother of ten.
“I would have been a dancer or an entertainer,” she said.
I was only surprised by the fact that she had dreams beyond her children.
She loved the arts and taught my siblings and I everything she knew about them.
“Art elevates life,” she told me.
“In any form, it enriches your experience; whether anyone is with you or not, play music, make art, and break into song and dance whenever you can.”
She even started a nursery in our home, so all of the neighborhood kids could join in the fun.
From choreographing jitterbug and square-dance routines, and teaching us how to play instruments and sing in four-part harmonies, to making costumes and cookies, she put on music shows that were the talk of the neighborhood.
And everyone participated.
Quaker Oats containers turned into drums; uncooked macaroni in Tupperware made great shakers, and rubber bands that stretched around hollowed-out empty boxes, made guitars.
Her efforts were tireless.
I remember her carrying a tumbling mat home with me on the bus after gymnastics, so I could somersault to my heart’s content and have headstand and handstand races with her.
And when I caught the chickenpox, she didn’t make me lay in bed all day, she bought me a ping-pong paddle set instead.
There was just one problem; we didn’t have a ping-pong table.
It didn’t stop her, though.
She rigged the ping-pong net to our coffee table and we played for hours everyday, until I went back to school.
Nothing stopped my Mom!
Not even my Father. (What About Hope?)
While he was creating a world full of fear and uncertainty, she was creating a world full of hope and possibility.
No matter how hard he tried to break her spirit, it was full of grace.
And she stepped into grace everyday.
The kind that transcends love and emerges into a room like an incandescent light.
It guided her to hope and paved her way to possibility.
It sparkled in her eyes and perched softly in her soul and gave her the courage, not to be discouraged.
It grew her faith in ways that were undeniable.
In ways that would help to save me from my own dark night of the soul.
I didn’t understand that my Mom had a life outside of her children either.
Why would she?
Why would she want to be anything other than our Mom?
She actually had dreams that were separate from the dreams she had for us; dreams that were completely abandoned and sacrificed, when she became our Mom.
It takes my breath away.
Her love was absolute, unconditional, and completely irrevocable.
On my last visit with my Mom in July of 2005, one of my sisters played the harp and I played along on my flute; the same flute that I’ve had since fifth grade band and the same flute that she persuaded me not to sell after college.
She smiled and nodded along as we played. I could feel the vibrations of the instruments and the energy in the room.
It was pure joy.
When we finished playing, we took our last visits with her alone.
Basking in the sunlight, I took her hand knowing it would be for the last time.
I spent so much of my childhood holding it and squeezing it for added security, that I never realized I was taking it for granted; wishing at times that she’d let go.
Now, I wanted to hold her hand forever.
Just like I did as a kid, praying and playing.
Walking through the city, standing at bus stops, sitting on trains, and riding up and down elevators and escalators.
I wanted to play one more game, sing one more song, hop-shuffle-ball-change right off to Buffalo with her.
But it was time to let go; time to let her go.
So I breathed in the touch of her hands one more time.
They were soft and warm from the heat of the sun and they were fragile, like the rest of her physical body.
Squeezing them gently, I felt the power of her love pass through me.
It secured me to the earth and fastened me indelibly to living joy – hers.
I was overcome with gratitude and peace for having had her on my journey here.
She told me to remember that the only thing I can count on in life is change and then she asked me to promise that I would never give up.
And she prayed:
“Thank you, God, for all of the blessings you’ve given to me in my life, especially my children. I will never forget them and I will always be grateful.”
Absolute, unconditional, and irrevocable.
We crave it, we long for it; we live for it and we survive because of it.
It’s the closest thing to Divinity that we have on this earth.
So no matter your relationship, or how old you are, or how well prepared you think you are – when your Mom passes – you cry like a baby.
Because Mom-Love is what we ache for when we’re homesick and what we search for in life, until we can finally go home.
Everyone has a Mom and somewhere today, someone needs to know what it feels like to be loved by one.
So here’s to our Moms – the Divine Feminine – and their unconditional love and sacrifice.
Until next time,
Share this with someone you love, especially if that someone is your Mom.
And remember to make life a game, but most of all, remember your dreams, listen to the music, sing to the song in your soul.
Happy Mother’s Day, Moms!
Photo Credit: Humor Me With Mo