As I celebrated Mother's Day this year, I couldn't help reflecting on my relationships with the women who have mothered me throughout my life.
I was born to a woman named Clymmie, who moved to NYC from Alabama in the sixties. My mother is a hard-working woman who keeps an immaculate home, cooks gourmet meals with ease, and who prides herself on keeping her bills paid on time and her credit score high. My mother raised three daughters while holding down a job, and seeing her work ethic and her determination to make an honest living was a great inspiration for me and my sisters to strive for greatness in our own careers.
In recent years, my outlook on my upbringing has changed. At one time I was very bitter about the lack of love, affection, encouragment, positive words and smiles in my relationship with Clymmie. Unlike my other friends, I didn't have the experiences of joking around with my mom or doing each other's nails or even hearing her say that she loved me. But I've come to the realization that my mother gave me what she was capable of giving me. Having not experienced affection or tenderness in her own childhood, she wasn't capable of or willing to express herself to me in a motherly way. Though I've since forgiven her for it, a void was still present where my "mom" should have been.
Then I began attending a church in my community and I met a woman named Mosezetta. I was 19 years old, a mother and was in a relationship. But I was still very much a little girl seeking a mother's love and affection. Mosezetta and I began a friendship that developed into something so much deeper. She taught me to hold my chin up, keep my shoulders back, my spine straight and to look people in the eye when I talked to them. She recognized my low self esteem and my yearning for love and she stepped into the gap that existed in my life and she mothered me. She didn't have to do it. After all, she had three sons of her own and was a single mother working hard to keep her own children's needs met. But she unselfishly invited me into the fold and soon I was referring to her as Mom and she was introducing me as her daughter. My children call her Grandma and her sons refer to me as their sister. I was given the family that I had always longed for, the "mom" I had never had.
I now respect, love and admire both my mother and my mom for very different reasons. I admire Clymmie's toughness, her strength, her work ethic, her fearlessness. I admire Mosezetta's tenderness, her Godliness, her grace, her class, her sense of style and her loving kindness. God doesn't always give us exactly what we want or need in our parents. But He is wise enough, gracious enough, merciful enough to place people in our lives who can fill in the void. I learned not to cry over what I didn't receive from my mother. Instead, I'm grateful for what she DID give me. And I'm thankful for the woman God sent into my life to fulfill the parts of my upbringing that I had missed out on. Now I have the best of both worlds.
In my relationship with my only daughter, I am so blessed to have had the benefit of my two mothers. I am able to exhibit Clymmie's strength and resilience while simultaneously lavishing her with the love, patience and understanding I learned from Mosezetta. And as I watch my daughter mothering her own new daughter, my heart smiles knowing that she will be a fantastic mom who will draw from the best of me, Clymmie and Mosezetta. This Mother's Day I appreciate the women in my life who contributed to making me the woman I am today. We are all phenomenal women - flaws and all - and couldn't ask for anything more.
Happy (belated) Mother's Day to all the Moms out there!