How could I have known at the time, the virtue of a family dinner on Sunday afternoons? The comforting aroma of garlic and onions simmering in olive oil, of fresh basil picked and chopped from the garden at the bottom of our backyard. We would have fresh bread and home-cooked tomato sauce waiting for us as children when we returned from our dutiful outdoor activities. We waited for the call from across the street that it was time to eat. I can remember that smell so vividly. I can conjure up the memory of the easy northeastern breeze that seemed only to happen on Sunday afternoons as if the world knew it was time to stop and take a moment and be with your loved ones.
On occasions when we’d get hurt, which was often, my mother would break into uncontrollable laughter. We would get mad and demand she understand our youthful profound pain and she would try her best to keep herself from smiling as if she was trying to hold her breath underwater. One of her famous remedies was to lie us down on the kitchen floor and fill an empty can with rice or beans and she would do a magical dance around us. I would try so hard to stay in my righteous pain but I couldn’t resist the inevitable. Laughter always followed.
Every morning before school, at an ungodly hour in the morning, she would shuffle across the floor half-awake in her bathrobe and slippers and make us breakfast. Our own birthday parties were always full of joy and laughter, the house full of the neighborhood children running around and playing games: Colin and Walter and Michael and Freddy and Marissa and Maureen and Alice and Billy and Little Billy and Maria and Lucy and Steven and Samantha and Stephanie and so, so many more.
How could I have known how much love was in my life?
It is only in today’s graceful present frame of mind I am able to begin to understand the incredible feat my mother pulled off. As I struggle from day to day I can only imagine having three children in tow, looking to me for the reminder of safety in the world. She never had a day off, a moment’s rest.
My mother is a blessing. She is beautiful. She is divine. She is full of an unconditional love I have yet to fully grasp. I can never know the trials and tribulations she went through raising three children, but I can soak up the immense gratitude I have for the memories I have and the new experiences that still await.
Happy Birthday, Mom.