I look in the mirror. I don’t see my own face . . . I see the face of my mother. I see her eyes looking back at me, radiating pride in her steadfast gaze. I see her mouth about to tell me another story, about to laugh, about to smile. I see her features reflected in my own. Growing up, everyone used to say I looked just like my dad. As I’ve gotten older, that’s changed; now I hear about how much I look, and sound, like my mom. I answer the phone at home and I could probably talk to someone for about five minutes before they’d realize they aren’t talking to the woman they thought they were. I’d someday like to experiment with that; I wonder how long I could chat with one of my mom’s friends before they realized it wasn’t actually her. I’d like to think that someday I’d get to “Well, I’ll talk to you later,” hang up, and have my mom trying to explain why she doesn’t remember that conversation two weeks later!
I owe my features, now, to my mother. Of course, I owe more than that. I don’t have to go into a lot of scientific jargon and philosophical metaphors to explain why I can say that I owe her my life. I don’t have to wax on in pseudo-intellectual descriptions of why I owe my mom my personality (though maybe someday she’ll call me on that offer). I won’t even babble on and on religiously about how I could say that I owe her my spirit . . . that is, that I get my spirit from her. Needless to say, I owe my mom a lot, and wrapping it up in a box just isn’t going to cover it.
So what could I possibly offer my mom, outside of the typical box of chocolates and store-bought card dripping with sentiments, for Valentine’s Day?
I can give her my admiration. I admire my mom for several reasons. She is a strong Black woman brought up by a strong Black woman in a time when it was difficult to be any of those three monikers. She has loved and raised two children through sickness, health, elementary and high school, and into college. She has given what she can, even when it isn’t much, to make sure we’re provided for. I may never forget the time she sent me five dollars in the mail and jokingly told me to go paint the town! But, whether she knew it or not, even that five dollars meant a lot, because it was just one more sacrifice she made to bless me with something.
I can give her my respect. Knowing my mom, she’ll really like that one! My mom has been through a lot; I won’t go into them-that’s her business-but needless to say she is a strong woman who has the gift of knowing when to stand firm and when to bend in the wind. She’s my example. My mom won’t let you get her down for long; she doesn’t hold grudges, and she’s not one to seek revenge for an insult. She goes without so we, as a family, can have. And she won’t back down from a fight she knows she should win (even if it’s with me)!
I can give my mother my love. Now that’s a Valentine’s Day gift, to be sure! Yet this is a gift, along with the others, that should only grow greater as time goes by. I love my mother’s laughter. I love the stories she’s told me maybe fifteen times that-though I pretend they do-never get old. I love her sense of humor; I love that she finds cheesy things funny and doesn’t get my jokes but will laugh two weeks later when she finally figures out or asks what I meant by them. I love that she always seems to know everybody, even if it goes far beyond the two degrees of separation notion (even if it gets to be twenty-degrees). I love that she can take an ordinary trip through the grocery line and make it a social gathering. I love that my mom can take a random assortment of things and make them into something spectacular, be it a table arrangement, a wreath, or a meal. I love my mom. I respect her. I admire her. I still don’t really know what I’ll be giving her this Valentine’s Day. I’m certainly not going to lay it out in this article; she reads them all! But whatever I can find to give her, whatever I wrap up, adorn with a bow, and seal with my signature, one thing remains true: it could never be enough to express how much she means to me.