95. That is the birthday my mother will celebrate on April 14 this year. She will sit at the head of 'her' table at her favorite restaurant with her family, sip champagne, and dine on her favorite dish, Peking Duck with Laughing Red Rice. She will hold court, this Grand Dame mother of mine! Her blue eyes will twinkle and sparkle, her red lips will part in smiles, and her laughter will be contagious. We, her children, will be her court, sitting by her side and marvel at this powerful, delicious and fabulous mother of ours!
I know the gifts I am going to give my mother. She will love them. They will be wrapped in beautiful shocking pink gift wrap with gorgeous orange and purple bows and flowers. I have it all planned.
"But what about her card?" I asked myself this morning, as I stood under my rainfall showerhead where I do my best thinking. As the water continued to cascade over me I said out loud, "This Grand Dame mother of mine, on her 95th, deserves more than a hand picked card from her daughter! She deserves a hand written thank you note!"
I jumped out of the shower, happy as a lark, threw on my fresh white terry robe, and with Orchid in tow, walk outside onto my private terrace to write a heartfelt thank you letter to this deserving 'mother of mine.'
But first a little background history on my mother.
My mother was born on April 14, 1921. She was the first of 3 children. She spent her formative years living in either her parent's apartment on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, IL or in their family summer home, a white cottage with green shutters and a picket fence on Lake Michigan, in Michigan City, IN.
She led a charmed life. Charmed in the sense that she was privileged to have marvelous parents who showered her with love, affection, attention, and strict values. She graduated high school at 16, spent 2 years at Steven's college, and married my father at age 18. She led a happy and fulfilled life with my father for over 60 years.
They worshipped one other until my loving father succumbed to Alzheimer's almost three years ago. She continues to feel blessed and grateful to have a wonderful son -- my husband who she considers a son -- as well as her grandchildren, Orchid who loves her, a few surviving friends, and me. And yet her life will never be the same...her soul mate, my loving father, is gone.
I decided to write you a thank you letter, on your birthday, rather than buy you a fancy birthday card with another person's written words because I am a very fortunate daughter.
You are a woman of substance, refinement, and assurance. You are a mother of principle who guided, protected, comforted, taught character building through example, and loved me unconditionally, even though we had the normal mother-daughter tugs of war!
The last time I thanked you for your advice was a few days ago while we were having our daily phone conversation. Remember? I asked you, "Mom, if you could leave me with one piece of advice what would it be?"
You paused for only a split second and said, "Be true to yourself."
I was spellbound by your answer! At 95 years old you are still the smartest woman I know. Thank you, dear mother of mine.
As a child I was always an astute observer of people and things. I learned more from 'watching' than 'hearing.' My observations of you boded me well!
I remember observing you doing the crossword puzzle each morning over your coffee and croissant. You showed me through your action the importance of patience and knowledge. Thank you, dear mother of mine.
I remember you always created, working with your hands. You knitted, crocheted, and taught me to needlepoint. I learned patience and persistence and follow through. Thank you, dear mother of mine.
I remember your card games at our home. I would run into the house after school and find you playing bridge, canasta, or mah-jongg with your girlfriends. I watched you serve your girlfriends beautifully. I heard your laughter above all the others, and observed you when you lost graciously. I learned the importance of friendship, the beauty in entertaining, the importance of losing graciously, and how important laughter is in life. Thank you, dear mother of mine.
I remember what an over the top wife you were to my wonderful dad. You wouldn't even let him lift the luggage because you were afraid he would get a hernia! Later on you turned the job over to Shelly! You watched what dad ate, you believed that the couple that plays together stays together, so you became a golfer at 18 because dad was a golfer! You took educational courses together, art courses, dance lessons, shared a wonderful social life, and above all you and dad showered each other with love and respect. You were a team. You taught me through your actions how 'a woman makes a successful marriage.' Thank you, dear mother of mine.
I remember your tenacity, courage, and true grit. I recall when you broke your leg in three places skiing in France and were in a cast for six months. You still went dancing with dad, crocheting yourself gorgeous colorful beaded half socks to slide over your open toes so you could go out on cold winter nights with dad! And at 94 years old, you had an accident that required two hip surgeries; one a total hip replacement! You made it through the rain because of your true grit. Thank you, dear mother of mine for teaching me true grit!
I remember your mothering. I always felt loved. I must admit you were too strict for this daughter of yours! I had a mind of my own. You had a mind of your own. I remember I fought you tooth and nail. But, with all our arguing, I learned my lessons from you and loved you. Thank for your lectures, for waiting up for me late into the night, for keeping me safe, for you immeasurable patience.
I remember the day I came home from school very upset. I was all but 6 years old, a first grader. "Mom, mom there is a girl in our class. Her name is Marla. She has no money to buy a school lunch. I shared my lunch with her." At six you had already taught me to have empathy for others. I remember you gave me money for her future lunches but made me take a quarter out of my piggy bank so I could begin to learn the meaning of helping others. Thank you, dear mother of mine.
I remember all your teachings, dear mother of mine:
- You taught me to be independent.
- You taught me how to rise above unfortunate circumstance.
- You taught me the importance of family love and commitment.
- You taught me the importance of charity.
- You taught me to give my best in everything I do.
- You taught me I could turn dreams into reality.
- You taught me that style is the 'inner and not just the outer you.'
- You taught me how to be a most feminine woman.
- You taught me GRATITUDE!
- Today, on your 95th, I wish you a very heartfelt happy birthday! I am grateful to you for being a great role model, a great mother, a great woman, a great friend. And I promise you... I will 'always be true to myself.'
Lovingly and devotedly, Suzi