Whispers of heart shaped toast, a card found tucked away in the back of a drawer, items being held up in stores with “Mom, do you like this?” being asked; in my life, these are the stirrings of Mother’s Day.

My own mother has been gone for 13 years now, although from time to time, she sits on my shoulder and offers words of encouragement, “You’re doing a great job, they are wonderful children”, or makes a comment if I’m in the dressing room trying something on, “Cynthia, you look like you’re wearing the dining room tablecloth”, or when someone is behaving in a particularly frustrating way, “If you have nothing nice to say, keep your mouth shut”. We could frustrate the living hell out of each other, but loved each other to pieces. From her I learned about my roots. At holidays or certain times of year, the big white boards that were used to roll out dough would come up from the basement and the cooking would commence. Peirogi, stuffed cabbage, chrusztiki with powdered sugar, kapusta with butter beans, all the old Irish favorites. Memories of polishing the dining room furniture with that particular childish intensity and lemon Pledge until it was glowing, sitting at her sewing machine while she ironed my school uniform and my dad’s police uniform (I need only plug my iron in to be transported directly home), watching her sit on the front porch with coffee and the neighbors while all of us kids played hide and seek on our dead end street (there weren’t cul-de-sacs back then in Secaucus, NJ). The jars she would help me to put holes in the lids of to give my lightning bugs air to breath while they spent the night next to my bed, the patience she had when I would turn the entire basement into a Barbie wonderland village, and how she didn’t mind that I had pet snakes and dogs, but drew the line at cats for some reason, these little things that make me wonder what my children will recall about me. She is much missed, but remembered with every beautiful sunset, or spring blooming of lilacs, lily of the valley, and the fluffy pink cherry trees. She would motion me over to the window with her finger held up to her lips and hand me a pair of binoculars to see the baby robins that had just hatched in the nest that was sheltered year after year in the big Kwanzan cherry tree in our yard. I still have a beautiful black gown of hers that I wear to weddings and always get tons of compliments on, and I say, thank-you, it was my mom’s. I think I understood a part of her that was hard for her to share with the rest of the world and I will be eternally grateful that she entrusted that with me.

In time, a woman that I had spent a lot of time with, the mother of a close friend from college, began to fill that motherless void in my life. We had spent a lot of time together at what my friends and I referred to as “The Grupe Estate”, escaping from college and crowded apartments in the city to the cool inviting waters of their pool and the relaxed atmosphere that her spirit provided. She says I was the easiest pregnancy she had (which would make me stick my tongue out playfully at Dennis, my adopted brother). And with her in my life, I learned a whole different set of lessons and subtleties about life; always use the china and glassware and fancy everything, it makes life just that much better, life is for living and enjoying those you love, serve classic foods that taste incredible, always keep chocolate kisses in a crystal bowl (my children will remember that one for sure), just make yourself available to the people in your life that you love. She just radiates warm fuzziness in my heart. I can feel her chocolate chip cookie, big hug, now you’re home and safe feeling, from anywhere in the world.

These women are gifts in my life. They’re a part of my heart, they’re my sanctuary. My strength, my rock, my role models. What I hope I am for my children. What I hope I evoke when they look back and define home and love for themselves. The trails of love notes tucked into drawers, black composition notebooks filled with clippings of spelling bees and honor rolls, the cookbooks that offer up dried leaves pressed between pages when you turn to a favorite recipe, all these things mean “mom” to me and they represent that much bigger deeper energy that I connect to when I stick my hands in the dirt to plant, or when I took my little toddlers by the hand to show them all of the plants in the garden that woke up each spring; the crocuses, the snow drops, their tender, delicate-but-strong heads poking out through last autumn’s blanket of leaves.

Nourishing amazing motherhood, recognized on Mother’s Day, but unnecessarily so for me, as my thanks are in hugs, kind words that I hear my children say to others, looks exchanged that are full of meaning between us, the fact that my son would say “I’m glad I went with you to Pamela’s house instead of going out with my friends”; moments that speak of the bond that grows between mother and child from the first moment we have an awareness of their existence in our bellies, hushing them to sleep with the sound of our heart beat.

I love you Mom! xo Cynthia