When I was a freshman in college, I decided to dye my hair the hottest hot pink possible. Though there is simply no way my mother could have been in favor of this less-than-stellar decision, she set up a chair for me on the backyard lawn of our Los Gatos home. We laughed as she gently transformed the dirty blonde that had traveled genetically through generations, from her father’s head to hers and then to mine, into the most unnatural of comic book magentas. She worked the pink in patiently by hand, being careful not to drip or smear, warning me to keep my eyes closed, mindfully avoiding coloring my ears. We rinsed the dye out with ice-dagger water from the garden hose, giggling and shivering in early fall, because there was no way she was letting it get anywhere near the house.
This is the most perfect picture I can paint for you of my mother: her laughter and easy, judgment-free assistance in a project she can’t possibly have been behind combined with her quietly practical ability to never let my messes get too out of hand. From the very earliest of my memories, my mother has loved me and celebrated me for exactly who I am. Through successes that made her genuinely proud and failures and bad ideas that extend far beyond flamingo hair color, I have been first and always hers, a truth she has never allowed me to forget. I am aware that not everyone has been loved in this way. I wish that wasn’t true.
My mother has always treated me like an equal, like a friend whose opinion she values and whose company she covets. There has never been a secret too dark to tell her or an announcement that has kept her from loving me fiercely, relentlessly, and unmistakeably. She has made being our mother her life’s work, and she has done it with grace, creativity, beauty, and a whole lot of style. And I have had the privilege of growing up with a mom who has always shown up, always seen me through, and always been the person to whom I can return from any circumstance and be received with love.
I have been so very, very blessed.
The older I get, the more I am able to recognize the gift I’ve been given. I listen to stories from friends who rarely speak to their moms, or brides who can’t handle the pressure their overbearing mothers are applying, and I mutter prayers of gratitude under my breath. Gratitude because I will never understand what it feels like not to have my mom on speed dial, to have her be the first person I want to share news with and the only one I want to call in a crisis. Thank God, because without her, I have absolutely no idea what I would do.
I kept the pink hair for a few months, and most people I knew eventually got around to asking: “Geez, what did your mom say?” How I enjoyed telling them she had dyed it herself, with laughter, under a tree in our backyard, because I am loved in an extraordinary way. I hope she knows how loved she is in return.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. You know there aren’t enough thank yous. But thank you all the same.