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'She's my mom!' and other reasons to remember mom, every day

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Friday, May 8th, 2009 — Back in the boom times jewelry was a favorite Mother's Day gift.

One year, I was one of those lucky moms. My youngest son, Michael, who was then 7 years old, was downtown shopping with his brothers and found the treasure he couldn't resist.

On Mother's Day morning, he presented me with a tiny gecko pin with "scales" on its back polished to look like diamonds, and with real ruby eyes.

Genuine rubies! That's what was written on the tag. Granted, these were the tiniest rubies imaginable. To Michael and to me they were the crown jewels. His older brothers had questioned him about spending so much money. The pin had cost $20. But his answer was simple: "She's my mom."

My son has probably forgotten all this but I remember it as if it were yesterday. I remember a few not-so-endearing moments, as well. But when I see those ruby eyes looking out at me from a shelf over my desk, those memories fade away.

So it is with mothers. I don't know a single mother whose True North is not her family. No matter what else we are doing, or how mad we are at our kids, we know where we are happiest. A hug or smile, even tears can touch our heartstrings. And when these things are missing everything else starts to feel like so much busy work. Doctor, lawyer or Indian chief my personal calling the mother in us still rules.

"She's my mom." Even now I smile when I think about my son standing there beaming with pride and affection. I know that none of this was about my being a perfect mom. It was a statement of trust in a relationship that was as vital to me as it was to him. The title line in Paul Simon's song, "She Loves Me Like a Rock," says it all: This relationship is a bond that defines us as moms and on which our kids' lives depend.

I believe that is true. But we shouldn't get too sentimental. There is another song that was popular around our house called "Wagon Wheel." I remember being crestfallen and slightly red-faced when I learned that, "Rock me, mama," in the lyrics was not about me but the women who took my place!

Notwithstanding the youthful affection wrapped up in those tiny ruby eyes, mom gives way to mama soon enough. Still, even when the kids grow up and leave home, a simple phone call or an unexpected visit can make a bad day good.

Last week was like that. It had been a particularly long, dry spell of daily minutia. Then our eldest son e-mailed to say he would be in town the next evening. He wondered if we would have a spare bed for him. A spare bed? You betcha! And clean sheets, fresh towels and cold beer in the fridge. After all, he's my son!

Not long ago, I was in Starbuck's with my 4-year-old grandson. I was busy taking the crust off his sandwich, trying to get him to eat while he pulled every last piece of a new Lego set out of the package. As we sat there, I hunkered down over Gus, his uneaten sandwich and the Legos, now spilling onto the floor. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a woman's purple-and-pink striped tights and spiked heals at the next table. I looked up to see an elderly woman smiling at us.

She was impish looking with dyed red hair, very sweet and quite chatty. She was eager to engage Gus, but had no more luck than I did. She settled for me: "Is this your little boy?"

"No. He's my grandson, my son's little boy."

"He's very sweet." Then a faraway look came over her. "I have a son, too. They are so sweet when they are young. And then they leave and. ..."

I still think about this woman, so charmed by a child and yet without any children in her life. I wish I could tell her son to phone home! It is so easy to miss the smiles and laughter when they are all around us. How often do we take the hugs and treasures for granted?

And as adults, do we remember to do the little things that will make mom smile?

Kids are the air we breathe. They give meaning to our lives. And mom is the rock that lets kids feel safe enough to move out into the wide world. We want them to meet those mamas and the other men and live happily ever after.

So on Mother's Day, or any old day, pick up the phone, send mom a treasure or give her a hug. After all, she's your mom!