As almost everyone will do, on this Mother’s Day I will honor my mother. As a mother, Catherine “Kitty” Rankin Poston’s three most distinctive characteristics were: she was loving; she was attentive; and she was almost obscenely proud of her eight children. She bestowed upon us the supreme gifts that come from a lifelong love for her husband, our father. We grew up feeling the security of an intact family unit.
For me, though, Mother’s Day is about so much more than my one Mom. I lay in bed tonight trying to figure out why. Why does my heart feel so full? I found clarity in a diagram that sketched itself in my mind. For me, the magic of motherhood goes deep, and then it gets shallow, and then it goes wide.
It goes deep into my Irish roots. My Irish immigrant grandmother who worked the thankless job of cleaning public schools in Brooklyn, New York, and whose only complaint was, “The minute they start building the bridge is the minute I start walking.” The family she and her husband created became my extended family—Aunt Maureen & Uncle Al, Aunt Jo & Uncle Walter, Uncle Bob & Aunt Eileen. My mother’s best school friend, Kay, and her husband, who was my father’s best friend, became family too, and I can’t imagine life without Aunt Kay & Uncle Jack Ernst and their children as a beloved bonus family. And so I honor these mothers of people who became my cousins, some of whom have stayed close in touch so that I now have the privilege of knowing their children.
I dive into the deep end of my childhood and, through the magic of social media, I am in contact with people who were classmates since kindergarten. I attended Elyria’s Franklin, Hamilton, St. Mary’s, and Elyria High Schools, and so today I also honor the mothers of my friends. These mothers gave me the precious gift of a little human who, somewhere along the line, shaped my life. For example, once upon a very long time ago I belonged to a Brownie troupe; now I’m Facebook friends with some of my troupe-mates! Thanks to Facebook, I know some of my high school classmates better now than I ever did before. When I reconnected with my long-lost college roomie and best buddy from the College of Wooster (both of whom had the nerve to move across the continent), now we see each other regularly and know one another’s families via social media. We even have a Zoom book club where we make a passing pretense of discussing books but really what we want to do is simply hang out together.
Plunging deeply into my adult life, I see my in-laws, and I smile. I was so lucky. My in-laws–both the big, sprawling Morehouse clan and the compact Zagrans family unit–were good people. My sisters-in-law, including the women my brothers married and brought into the family, are stellar. Nieces and nephews packed the treasure chest of love to overflowing, and so I cannot help but be grateful for the families I was welcomed into.
And the friends I made along the way: the compassionate coaches who trained me so I was strong; the nurturing angels who fussed over my hair and nails and makeup so I looked my best; the two women (one of whom is my mother, the other, Kathy Skerritt) who painted the artwork that hangs on my walls, and the creative mother-daughter team who framed literally everything that hangs on my walls. The doctors who kept me healthy and welcomed me into their families. The editor who made me an author. The priest who took me behind the razor wire. The prisoners who let down their guard and became my prayer warriors.
This one tiny thought will illustrate just how much my mind is blown when I think back on all the people I have loved and who have loved me: I’ve been a mother since 1979, and some of the babysitters who watched over my kids are still in touch via Facebook. Today I give thanks to their mothers for having raised such responsible young ladies.
My role as a mother is what caused a big shift. This is when things went from deep to shallow. They went shallow because my world began to revolve around my children. The world shrunk to the size of a stage because the spotlight narrowed so that my own precious kids were the main actors in the story of my life.
My children began to bring home their friends . . .
and the arms of motherly love grew longer so I could wrap them around these new kids.
And then I met my children’s friends’ parents . . .
and we became the best of friends . . .
and I met some of their teachers . . .
and we became the best of friends . . .
You see what I mean? THIS is when everything went wide.
To me, my children’s friends were like chosen children and they became part of the family. Their prom dates? To this day, every one of them knows the door is wide open. My daughter’s roommates? They’re “almost-mine.” I loved them then; I love them now.
In fact, it’s mind-boggling how the network of love kept spreading wider, and wider, and wider. Today, I find that there is no limit to the reach of motherly love. I’ve got a whole slew of young men and women I truly love in Portland. There’s a very special family I adore in Seattle. I have family, friends, and chosen families in Ohio, in Michigan, and on Long Island. I have family and friends in Tennessee, Texas, and Florida. Just—everywhere! Even Germany, for Pete’s sake!
And then I have to pause a moment in profound gratitude when I give thanks for my beautiful granddaughters who light up my life like firecrackers made of joy. And let us not forget the four-legged grands–Kenya, Magpie, Bashi, the late Tyger and the ailing Dana. My kids make really great parents. And that reminds me of my own Tiamo Heather’s “fairy godmother” who somehow knew this four-legged Texas cowgirl was meant to be mine, for which I will always be grateful.
Incredibly, thanks to my firstborn having chosen American Studies as a major, I am living an unexpectedly wondrous new life a mere five miles from my beloved Notre Dame, and my “family” of loved ones has grown to include a whole new network of friends, cousins, and sisters.
I would list all of your names right here, right now, if space would permit. All of you who have walked into my life, into my home, into my heart: I want you to know that this Mother’s Day I am seeing a montage of your beautiful faces in my mind’s eye and I feel so lucky. So blessed. Thank you.
More importantly, thank your mothers.
No matter where they are (heaven or earth), would you please tell your mothers that I say thanks? Thanks for birthing and raising a child who participated during my lifetime in the great exchange of love?
I am ever so grateful.
And Happy Mother’s Day.