Hey, Mama.

I have a really phenomenal mom.

Mother’s Day always reminds me of this, but I have lots of reminders all the time. Here are a few of the biggies.

One: This:

We are living in the time of graduations and senior photos, and can I just mention that everything is better now? The parties are better, the gift options are better, and the senior pictures are, across the board, better.

I graduated in the era of this kind of action:

And I have a 3-D visual to represent this time of life AND the depth of a mother’s love. She let me pop out from behind a tree with my over-zealous eyebrows and my one J. Crew shirt that I loved for too many years beyond what was fashionably or socially appropriate, and then she BOUGHT A THREE-DIMENSIONAL CUT-OUT OF THAT MOMENT, like I was Sly Stallone or something. The woman loves me with a fierce, blind love.

Two: She taught me the joy of doing work you love.

This week, my mom taught her last private violin lesson after 44 years of teaching. She played second stand in the first violin section of the Des Moines Symphony for 40 years. Her first season with the symphony was also the time I was growing in her belly. My mom is a brilliant musician. Until college (where I made sure to wear my one J. Crew shirt at least twice weekly), I thought it was normal to have soaring, achingly beautiful string music as the soundtrack for one’s life. I thought it was normal to hear Bach and Mozart and Dvorak and Barber and Mendelssohn while doing one’s homework or teasing one’s bangs.

Turns out, this is not normal.

I also thought it was normal to make work and family look easy, to pour yourself into an artistic pursuit, into work that inspires and pushes you, AND have dinner on the table by six o’clock.

Turns out, this is not normal either.

Three: My mom taught me to love Jesus.

She has done this in the most accessible, real-life ways. She loves books and story, and she loves the Bible. She likes talking about what she’s learning by reading its ancient-yet-alive stories. She has no patience for legalism and very easily dismisses dumb rules posing as Jesus rules. Even as a tiny kid, I noticed  my mom laughed a lot at both home and church. Church Patti was the same as Home Patti. (Again, tragically, this turns out not to be that normal either.) My mom hungers for real things, true things, and she taught me by how she lived and through years of conversations that Jesus is real and true and the embodiment of the stubborn, ferocious love of God. What a gift to give anyone, but particularly to a strong-willed daughter who often came looking for a fight. Oh, that I can give my own children that kind of legacy!

Mother’s Day is this weekend. Here’s another thing I thought was normal: an automatically joyful Mother’s Day. I mean, Patti. My brother and sister and dad and I have always had a lot to celebrate. But the truth is that Mother’s Day can be brutal. Years have taught me how Mother’s Day can bruise all sorts of hearts in all the most tender of places.

When Marc and I were mourning miscarriages, Mother’s Day was an interminably long day, a searing ache that started at breakfast and didn’t end for days afterward.

As I’ve walked with friends through the pain and disorientation of broken maternal relationships, Mother’s Day has seemed downright mean, a sort of cheery smudge of lemon juice into a gaping cut.

And this year, I’m thinking of and sitting with and praying for friends who have said temporary goodbyes to people they love, to a mom, a daughter, a son. Nothing feels right this year, this first year without the chance to finish the conversation, make the plan, send the card. This year is hard, especially when the love was so big.

So listen, all you mamas, all you daughters. I hope you feel the love this week. Friend, you have a tough job, whether you are mothering or daughtering. You have an especially tough job if you are doing these things alone. Thanks for what you’re doing. Thanks for doing it even when it’s never-ending and not very well appreciated and when the days are very, very long. I’m honoring you from this corner of the world, and I’m saying thank you.

And to my mom, the intrepid Patti who showed me how to live well and laugh hard and love with abandon: Mom, you are a gift that feels more boundless with each passing year. I love you.



P.S. Central Iowa folks: Juuuust in case you forgot to make your dried macaroni necklace, I have an idea for the perfect Mother’s Day gift. Stop by the Jordan Creek Barnes & Noble this Saturday between 2 and 4 pm, and pick up a signed copy of Sugar. The first 30 people to purchase a copy of the book also get a little sweet treat, all wrapped and lovely and BOOM! You have yourself a ready-made, delicious, personalized gift for your favorite mom, teacher, friend, or sister. This is waaaaay easier than that Pinterest project you were mulling over. Ditch the lunacy. Come to B & N. You and your gift recipient can both congratulate you on the awesomeness of your decision making.

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