The first week of first grade was a rough one for me. I cried all the way to school that week. Every single day. Yeah, it wasn’t pretty, but, hey, for a six year old, seven straight hours at school, away from home, away from your mom, is an excruciatingly long time.
In law school, where incidentally most school days last longer than seven hours, my Civil Clinic partner was a Marine. A real tough guy. I liked him, but he was not someone you wanted to mess with. And one day my tough-guy Marine Civil Clinic partner said something I’ll never forget. He said, “My mom staying home with me when I was a kid was the best gift anyone ever gave me.”
That statement struck me for two reasons. First, I was semi-shell shocked to hear someone, especially a tough-guy Marine, make a pronouncement like that as unabashedly, unapologetically, and matter-of-factly as he did. Secondly, as much as I’m ashamed to admit it, up until that moment I’d never acknowledged to myself the full magnitude of what my own mother had done for me.
My mom staying home with me when I was a kid was the best gift anyone ever gave me. And it was. I don’t mean to sound preachy or judgmental. I’m not trying to lay on the guilt or give anyone a complex. Everyone’s situation is different. I’m just everlastingly grateful for a mother who made that sacrifice, who was waiting there at the end of those long school days. For me. And for my three siblings.
My mother is witty and smart and graceful. She writes poetry like Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson or Ted Kooser — or maybe all three of them wrapped up in one. She could have done a lot of things. She could have been a lot of things. But the thing she wanted more than anything else was to raise a family, and so, for her, that college degree waited until I was out of the house and well on my way in the world.
Mom was there to cook our meals and do our laundry and, when occasion dictated, clean up our vomit. Mom was there to hand out popsicles in the summertime. Mom was there to read us books. (A Wrinkle in Time is still a personal favorite, less because of the actual story and more because of who first introduced me to it.) Mom was there at bedtime to tell us stories — usually stories about dogs from her own childhood. (Man, we loved those dog stories.) Mom was there for lots of things, for everything.
I’m not sure how you repay a gift like that. I don’t suppose you can, so let me just say Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, and thank you.
Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and their six young children. Chris enjoys stories by Ray Bradbury, starry night skies, and cherry limeade. He has also watched every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation more than once. Chris is the author of Red: A Football Novel.