The depths of a mother’s love are boundless.
Leading up to Mother’s Day, I’d been posting photos on my FB profile page, highlighting women who also happen to be moms. In the beginning, it was because these women are moms, and were on my friends list. Simple. After several days, the thought emerged why they really came to mind – each person, in her own way, is a positive and extraordinary woman. I’ve had the privilege to cross paths with them. And, in my mind’s eye, they contribute to the embodiment unique to the human experience, which is specific to womanhood.
One element could be the ferocity of which they love and go to bat for their children. I think for a living. So, when I’m off duty and not getting paid to think, I tend to overthink. But, let something go awry (I mean, seriously “off-kilter”) with my child. My vision narrows, and I can’t see anything but the object of what I must address – my son. Immediately, my brain starts firing on all cylinders. My words are curt, rapid, and exacting – a verbal manifestation of the fight scene in Kill Bill, when the bride, “Beatrix Kiddo,” mows down “The Crazy 88’s.”
Another element could be a mother’s energy. Moms run marathons and businesses, or volunteer. Their lives are a total career, whether outside the home or full-time inside the home, sometimes with work/life balance (and sometimes not). It’s all part of a mother’s nurturing and generosity.
Often, I guiltily succumb to societal expectations. The house has to be perfectly decorated, “Martha Stewart” organized, and neat as a pin. Clothes are neatly pressed, and filled with a “Halle Berry-Nicole Murphy-Jada Pinkett-Smith” body, which is still “smokin’ hot” after giving birth to children. At the same time, I figure if there is food in the fridge, clean, unfolded and wrinkled clothes piled in laundry baskets, and my child comes home with the same body parts in the same place as when he left, he’s good. And, I’m good.
Now that I enjoy the advantage of some life experience under my belt, I am in awe of the women who exhibit grace under fire. This is especially true when they face a crushing loss or hurt – seemingly unbearable events (whether expected or unexpected), such as the passing of a sibling, spouse, or the ultimate, a child. Since these mothers and I are middle-aged, we live with the expectation that you say goodbye to a loved one only after a long life spent together. In the face of thinking about what I couldn’t possibly handle in life, they have shown me how to carry on.
The perseverance within mothers is a defining element, as well. My Mom got married at 21 and had me at 25. Mom left college when they got married, and they shared a dynamic (and, safe to say, adventurous) life together. She went into business with my dad when I was about 7 or 8 years old. They remained business partners, and husband and wife, until his passing in 2012.
About 40 years into their marriage, mom got the spark to go back to school. Despite all obstacles and sticking points, she got her old school records, transferred to another college, and embarked on the pursuit of her degree, one class at a time, for the next ten years. Nothing deterred or swayed her from her path. When dad took ill (he was diagnosed with cancer in early 2012), mom became his primary and only caregiver while she steadfastly took a class each semester. We all dug in; teeth gritted to bear the news, the treatments, the upheaval, and whatever was to come. Dad passed away later that same year. Mom grieved and still took a class, every semester. In May of 2016, mom walked the stage to get her degree. While at the graduation ceremony, I noticed the program gave only general stats, including the ages of the youngest and oldest graduates, without names or other identifying information. Of course, I was the only one in a sea of a few thousand people, who knew the identity of the oldest graduate.
Throughout the ceremony, I made a spectacle of myself, repeatedly running up and down stairs, and over seats in the large stadium to get photos of her big day. Her graduating class was seated furthest away from the stage, and closest to the edge of the audience. Getting as close as I could, I shouted (“Mom! Mom!”) to get a photo of her standing in her cap and gown with her class. Just out of earshot and with her back to me, I couldn’t get her attention. A few fellow audience members turned, following the direction of my shouting. As they are looking at me, I excitedly explained to the closest group that the lady right there was my mom, and I couldn’t get her attention. Laughing, someone said, “I thought you were here for someone like a sister or something! We were wondering who was the oldest graduate!” Amused, those around me started yelling (“Mom! Mom!”) until she turned, and I snapped the photo.
Like these women, I appreciated her on social media. My mom has a story, but I didn’t see it much before now. My knowledge of her was as part of the “mom-and-dad personality combination” I’ve known all my life. I’ve only seen her journey come to life for me in the last few years. With my father’s passing, it’s like meeting a person for the first time. I now see her with those admirable elements that are easier to see in women not directly connected to my life. It’s the “Can’t see the forest for the trees” effect, I suppose.
Sometimes, social media gets criticized for possibly keeping people artificially connected, claiming the friendships aren’t real. I disagree. Whether we’ve been in the same room or online, these women keep me connected and grounded. I can relate, cheer, console, commiserate, support and encourage. However, I can relate when the non-sequitur equivalent of “Shit On This!” pops onto my timeline.
This “little bit” of life under my belt has taught me that motherhood is not static; and, there is no singular way to get the job done. I admire the Earth Mother, Goddess, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, partnered, married, unmarried, or blended way. And, I respect the stylish, glamorous, down-to-earth, “I’m-not-feeling-this-today,” or, “it-can’t-get-any-better-than-this” way. All of these extraordinary, regular, and beautiful women will keep me on my square.
I’m good. And, we’re all good.
Millicent Sherman is a graduate of the University of Michigan and University of Detroit-Mercy School of Law, working as a button-down attorney in Detroit, Michigan. When Friday comes around, she is the “weekend Bohemian,” who loves her local Eastern Farmer’s Market, and can’t pass up a specialty market, roadside fruit stand or boutique. She enjoys cooking and travel, and given a chance, would steal Anthony Bourdain’s job.