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Instead of a stupid Hallmark card, here's an essay
Happy Mother's Day, Momma
I’ll be honest. Every time Mother’s Day approaches, I feel a mix of excitement, gratitude, and dread.
Excitement because most years—and, now that we live within driving distance again, every year going forward—it means we get to spend the day together. Not just together, but together doing what you want to do.
I suspect you underestimate the amount of joy those last six words bring me.
Gratitude because I’m reminded that, by virtue of my existence, I get to experience your love.
If there was ever a reason to believe in a higher power, it’s the feeling of a mother’s love. (Or at least yours—I hesitate to speak for Kim Kardashian’s kid.)
It’s a love that transcends description.
It’s invisible, but still very much tangible, like the warmth of a fire. Even as I sit here on the gray and black-speckled couch in my living room, over a hundred miles away, your love is as palpable as Duke’s floppy little ears on my outstretched toes. I feel whole.
Ah, but the Dread.
I feel dread because I have to get you a gift. And with that gift maybe a cute little greeting card, one with a cat on the front wearing a deadpan expression and some pithy message on the inside, like: “4 out of 5 cats don’t care that it’s Mother’s Day.”
This is dreadful.
It’s not that I don’t like buying you stuff. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s easily one of my Top 5 Favorite Things in the World, right behind half-waking you up from a nap to surprise you on your birthday.
But buying you a gift card for a massage and a piece of card stock with a few words written by some dipshit at Hallmark, like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character in 500 Days of Summer, feels painfully insufficient.
I know you love massages. I’m sure they’re great. But when I think about everything you’ve given me, it’s hard to throw a gift card in a little neon bag, top it off with some tissue paper, and call it a day.
It’s hard when you’ve given me so much.
You’ve given me unconditional, unwavering support.
Existential support with all the messy, winding roads you’ve helped me navigate. Financial support by helping me realize the dream of buying a business. Emotional support through your presence and care during the darkest moments.
You’ve given me a perfect model of the rarest of virtues.
You listen—really listen, not to respond but to understand. I see this every time you talk to someone. You focus on them. You hear them. In turn, their eyes light up, and they gravitate toward you.
You care—not just with your words, but with your actions. I see this when you tell me about your week, when you casually mention that the woman you just met who lives in your building is having health problems, so you took her to the hospital and made her food and fed her cat and gathered her mail.
You are brave. Grammie and Grampie instilled this in you at birth, modeling their own bravery by devising a plan to escape Communist Hungary with you in tow. You’ve honored them by demonstrating tremendous courage throughout your own life. You act in the face of fear, make difficult decisions, and stand up for what you believe in.
You’ve given me freedom.
Dad likes to tell the story of how worked up you were when you found out you were having a boy. “We’re not just going to give him a bunch of sports stuff! We need to let him decide what he likes on his own!” And you did, in fact, let me decide what I liked on my own.
And it was sports.
Well, at first it was. Then it was drawing, then music, then gaming, but also still sports, then Boston Legal, then more sports but mainly lacrosse, then college lacrosse, then engineering, then economics, then entrepreneurship, then making a bunch of money, then happiness.
No matter what my obsession of the week happened to be—whether it was completely foreign to you, or you disagreed with my choice, or the ambiguity made you nervous—you never pushed me in a direction I didn’t want to go. If I told you I was doing something because I thought it would make me happy, that was enough for you.
You’ve given me the freedom to live my life as I see fit. And that freedom, along with your support and the virtues you’ve instilled, has created the ultimate gift: a life of genuine possibility.
I struggle when it comes to Mother’s Day, your birthday, and, sometimes, just a random Tuesday. I’m reminded of how lucky I am to be your son, how I’m the only person in the world with that privilege. I find myself wanting to repay you, somehow. But nothing feels adequate. I’ve stared at this blinking cursor for hours trying to figure out what to say. I want it to be perfect.
The reality is that no gift, nor card, nor vacation, nor essay will feel like enough. But it doesn’t need to be, because all of that misses the point.
I’m going to keep buying you stuff. It is in my Top 5, after all. But I think I have an idea of how I can begin to repay you. Two promises, actually.
The first promise is that I will deeply cherish the time that we have together.
The second promise is that I will do everything in my power to make the most of this life of possibility that you’ve given me.
This essay is far from perfect. The gifts will never be enough. But by keeping these two promises, I hope to show you how grateful I am for you, how much you mean to me.
I hope to honor you through the life you’ve gifted me.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.