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Bouquet of purple tulips and gifts for mothers; photo from Envato Element
Bouquet of tulips and gifts for mothers; photo from Envato Element

From broken pasta to victory medals; a Mother’s Day memoir

It all starts with a fingerpainted card, the kind that proud kindergartners spend days working on at school, wanting to show off their artistic abilities. They give appreciation to their mothers in the form of hasty coloring atop thin cardboard.

For second graders the cards, decorated with uncooked rainbow pasta and a short Hallmark message, are penned in scraggly but determined font. Fifth graders, obviously, have the most sophisticated type of gratitude for their mothers, consisting of a colorfully written note and a DIY bracelet.

The moms, themselves, however, carry no judgments. Amused smiles and cheery words feed the egos of their 5-to-10 year-olds for every sloppy letter, plastic bracelet and unglued piece of pasta.

I felt a certain satisfaction at being able to hand my mom a beaded necklace for my fourth-grade Mother’s Day and then mirrored her amusement when watching my sister give her the exact same gift three years later.

As the years went by, however, the number of gifts I gave decreased until Mother’s Day became a superficial holiday, only meant for gifts from elementary schoolers. Once the responsibility of creating a gift fell on my lazy shoulders, the excuses poured out of my mouth – I have too much homework; I don’t have any time; I just forgot. I could hide behind my younger sister’s presents for a while, claiming I was too old for the childish junk she brought home, but the guilt clawed away at my insides for breaking years of Mother’s Day traditions. As I climbed the ladder of grades to high school, Mother’s Day wasn’t a holiday worth the already strained amount of time in my life. There wasn’t any need to put effort into the sappy celebration when I could watch just one more YouTube video, or endlessly text my friends. Mother’s Day was at the very end of the list, behind birthdays and Christmas and even spring break, and by the time my ninth grade year came around, life became a struggle to balance schoolwork, extracurriculars, and the push of my mother wanting the best for me – a nudge of encouragement, but strict nonetheless. The future abruptly shoved itself in my face, a wake-up call that I wasn’t a kid, given freedom from the ropes of responsibility, and I needed to start piecing all I had worked for into the puzzle.

So even as I grew, my mom did know she was appreciated.

But then I realized something, as we drove out to see my sixth-grade sister’s orchestra concert. Every recital we performed in, my mother recorded, photographed and taped, so she could watch and share with the rest of the family. I’d never seen her as proud as when she showcased our talent. It was moments like watching her daughters succeed that made her happy.

I won’t claim to be someone who understands the inner workings of a mother, but I will acknowledge the fact that we’ve all made ours pleased at some point.

I celebrated my mom when I dragged her out to listen to our orchestra concerts. I celebrated my mom with every tennis match I won, after hours and hours of practice. I celebrated my mom when I was the only one who complimented her awe-inspiring cooking skills.

So even as I grew, my mom did know she was appreciated.

Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be the single time a year these women are recognized when nearly $25 million are spent on store-bought presents and cards; in fact, just letting them know their hard work is worth their while is enough. Everyone wants to feel appreciated and needed, and that they’ve truly made an impact. Watching concerts come alive, and grades reach the “A” mark is a mom’s way of being appreciated.

When all else fails, however, a tangible gift can speak volumes. Every raw piece of rainbow pasta, cheesy message, and glittery plastic necklace holds a volley of memories that are irreplaceable. I knew that when I found the folder of elementary school Mother’s Day cards on my mom’s bookshelf. Though the gifts are cheap, the writing sloppy, and the cards falling apart, the thought came from the bottom of a son or daughter’s heart, and for a mom, that is enough.

How do you plan to celebrate Mother’s Day this year? Let us know in the comments below.

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1 comment

Manjula Nathan May 12, 2019 at 7:12 pm

This is an excellent mother’s day tribute a daighter could make for her wonderful mother. Very well written! I am sure you made your mother feel so proud of you. Good job Anjali! This is the best present your mother got from you for this mother’s day.

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