Today my mom turns 60. She approaches this milestone age, one where many attempt to redefine who they are and question things they previously hadn’t, with grace and confidence in where she is and unafraid of what lies ahead.
As we come of age we spend so much energy defining ourselves as individuals in an attempt to discover our own truths. In adulthood, as we become closer to knowing ourselves, we have a clearer view of the forces that have gotten us to where we are and a deeper gratitude for them. My mom is one such force in my life.
Here are just a few things I love about her:
I can’t think of anything my mom hasn’t accomplished when she’s decided it was important. During the 80’s when our family lived in Tokyo, my mom took my sister and I – two toddlers – all over the city. She started groups and taught a workout class at the Tokyo American Club and entertained with my dad and exposed us to botanical gardens and temples and cemetaries during cherry blossom season. I remember helping her pass out rice cakes to homeless people living in the subway. Back in the States, she decided to get her teacher’s certification and excelled in a top-rated program. As a second grade teacher she raises ducklings with her students and has them put on a play about a fictional child who escaped American slavery. She spearheaded a district-wide creative writing program and mentored the school’s student council. She has been active in political campains and PTA and Junior Garden Club and charity work and historic commissions, engaging in her surroundings and getting things done.
Mom is artful at making people feel special. I grew up with parties and homemade cakes and thoughtful presents on birthdays, and lots of mother-daughter dates no matter the occasion. She has made a point to visit every place I’ve ever lived for the purpose of learning about my life and pampering me. This includes trips to rural Ukraine (with Dad) and to tight quarters in Brooklyn (several times). She talks with people in elevators and on airplanes, engaging people in a way that makes them confortable sharing their life’s histories. She remembers details and writes handwritten notes. She hugs easily and compliments quickly.
She is an awesome Grammy to Mimi. One recent source of joy is watching my parents become grandparents. As a grandma, my mom is playful and creative and open-minded. She was one of the few people to get consistent smiles from Mimi, who loves her Grammy and spontaneously kisses the phone when we Facetime.
Mom values quality experiences with those she loves and creates traditions that encourage relationship-building. As a kid her and my dad would take us on “mystery trips” — adventures that included trips to a ball game or a musical or even Disney Land. Mom always created a sense of importance around our togetherness, whether we were making weekend breakfasts at the cottage or hosting Christmas Eve dinners or taking our anual road trip to Panama City Beach for a family spring break.
Mom and my dad have been in love for nearly four decades. While her life and his are inextricably linked, she is decidedly her own, very strong-willed, very opinionated person. Which I almost always love about her.
She beautifies spaces and appreciates beauty. She notoriously adds flowers to hotel rooms. Homecoming after a long flight often includes candlelight and hors d’oeuvres and a fire in the fireplace. She just designed and decorated a cottage that is straight out of a home design blog. She loves gorgeous views and historic buildings and beautiful cities.
She asks for what she wants. A table by the window. Emotional presence. Time with her granddaughter.
She seeks adventure and has talked at times of moving to a (well-appointed) mud hut in a temperate climate or to an Airstream on the open road (good luck, Dad!). She is a wonderful travel partner and we have had lots of memorable trips together to Chicago when I was 13, to Paris ten years ago, to Boston and Martha’s Vineyard, to Whidbey Island.
Mom is curious. She loves stories and history and music and theater and books and travel.
In the coming decades I expect Mom will face decisions and change that come with age. I know that she will embrace this change with the same positive spirit that has always driven her and that has allowed her to build strong relationships, have fun, and stay true to who she is.
I love you, Mom. Happy 60th!