Sunday, May 13, 2018

Born of Love

"We are born of love;
Love is our mother."
- Rumi

Nearly a decade ago, Anne Lamott wrote an opinion piece for Salon entitled, "Why I hate Mother's Day." In it, she argues that part of her hangup with the holiday is that the celebration perpetuates the myths that women without children are somehow less important than women with children, that parents must ultimately be more loving, more fulfilled people. She calls out the problematic incompleteness of the day, the exclusivity and impreciseness. This year, on a Facebook reissue, Lamott added a disclaimer: "If you love the day, and have or had a great mom, and kids who have brought you incredible pride and joy, maybe skip it."

I happen to love the day. While I don't have children of my own, I am fortunate to have the most darling of mamas. I had read the piece years ago and didn't skip it this time around. The author often writes with the overlooked or marginalized in mind, and Lamott makes some insightful observations in her Mother's Day post. It's worth a read - especially for those who find themselves conflicted over the holiday. For those who associate the day with more pain than joy, they may find their feelings mirrored in Lamott's. There just might be some validation and comfort in her words.

I do not hate Mother's Day. While I can appreciate the criticisms Lamott and others throw at the day, I had the benefit of being raised by a devoted mama. My life has been defined by her grace and wisdom, warmth and tenderness. When you have someone so worthy of honor, it makes it easier to see the goodness behind the idea of the day.

Anna Marie Jarvis - the founder of Mother's Day - had pure intentions when she created the annual celebration. Her own mother, Ann Jarvis, was a fierce advocate of her Appalachian community. Anna was inspired by her mother's beautiful life and sought to elevate the contributions mothers make to our world. After the holiday became commercialized, Anna worked to rescind Mother's Day. Even the founder of Mother's Day understood that the holiday had become something untoward.

Mother's Day does present real challenges for real people. My young cousins are spending their first Mother's Day without their incredible mama. My Aunt Binnie is enduring her first Mother's Day without her husband. My friends who have had to bury their children relive the heartbreak. My brother is a single dad. His dual role makes for some difficult days. My friends navigating blended families have to manage warring expectations. My friends who desperately want to be mothers will go through yet another Mother's Day with grief in their hearts. Well-meaning folks will tell me of the joys I'm missing out on and urge me to get settled already.

Even with all of that, I choose to celebrate today.

I celebrate my lovely mama. She never wanted children. Until all of a sudden, she did. A few weeks later, she was pregnant with me. She considers that miracle the most profound of her life. She grew up playing Star Trek with neighbor kids and learning the viola and blasting Beatles records. She wasn't into dolls or playing house. Her desire to become a mother was as unexpected as anything. Remarkably, she was a natural. Some people are authentic nurturers, and she is chief among them. Growing up, our friends would seek Sarah Barrick out for advice, a listening ear, true understanding. She would sit with them off in a corner, laughing or crying, paying attention to that one soul in front of her. My friends and I are now grown, but she still offers that same gift, and we all take her up on it. Now as a grandma, she shines even brighter. We're all empowered by her sincere championing.

I celebrate the saints who have gone before us. My grandmother Sparky, my Aunt April, my mentor Julia, my great grandmothers, my fierce friends who never had children but were eager and generous with their love. Few days go by when I'm not reminded of the lessons they imparted, of the gift of presence they all gave wholeheartedly.

I celebrate the women who look after me as if I were their own. They've taken the time to know me and love me for my ridiculous self. I have a divine mama, but one can never have too many people who offer loving support. They serve as shining role models. I've never had the desire to be a mother, but I relish my role as Auntie, as godmother, as friend. I adore the dozens of children that add fullness and joy to my days. My phenomenal women have imbued my life with such warmth, what can I do but try to pass on a little of that to others?

I celebrate the friends who have opened up their lives to me. I am "Auntie" not only to my sweet niece but to many precious kiddos who take me by their pudgy little hands as we chase or dance. My heart wells up when I'm asked to draw or bake cookies with the ones who are growing up too fast. I'm honored as teenagers whisper their struggles and dreams. I'm part of these families, and they are a part of me.

As a woman who is purposefully child free, I still see the beauty this day has to offer. As Lamott reminds us, it can feel "incomplete and imprecise." People are sometimes excluded from the revelry. Harm can be perpetuated by outdated notions of the roles women are meant to play. There are other true criticisms that can be lobbied.

But I still love cutting roses from my garden and offering them as tokens of love so deep no gift is ever adequate. I still delight in searching for the right words to express my gratitude toward the women who love me better than I deserve. I still hold out hope that we can be more sensitive and inclusive on this day and every day as we strive to honor those who mean so much.

I was born of love. And for that - and so much more - I give thanks.