Thursday, May 6, 2010
Gratitude: So Many Mothers to Thank
As we approach the day designated for Mother's to be recognized and receive appreciation for all that they do, my thoughts turn to just how many mothers there are to thank.
Recently, I returned to a piece I'd written several years ago for yet another revision. It was about how a woman I'd never met or heard of, stepped up, with three other mothers, on a Friday night outside an Upper East side bar, and saved my son from serious harm or worse. He'd been pushed out the bar by a white bouncer when he questioned if the latter was serious about him not being able to take a call on his cell in the foyer. In the process, he got separated from his phone and when he attempted to go back in to get it, the other bouncer, a black guy, hit him. These Black women were walking in the area at the time and witnessed this scene and the ominous conflict brewing. They intervened. One of them in particular, convinced my son that his phone was not worth his life, and took him to a bar with a diverse clientele, one she said was "safe." Unlike, her, he was unfamiliar with the area, and had only been there because of a specific event taking place earlier near this bar. I later learned her name, Ms. Simpson, and met her. She 'mothered' my son that night -- protected and guided him -- and I am forever grateful to her.
African-Americans have a long history of kinship that extends beyond biology. It is in fact one of the ways we have endured the oppression of enslavement and its aftermath. They're sometimes referred to as 'other mothers' -- women who have nurtured and schooled us, whether we've had our biological mothers to do so or not. Women who know how to give good enveloping hugs and how to call us, straight up, on our bull and denial. Women who believe in us and in whose eyes we can see our lovely and deserving selves.
Some of these women have biological children of their own, but others do not. They 'mother' the children born of other women in different ways, as godmothers, as therapists, as volunteer mentors and more.
Last year was the last Mother's Day I had with my own biological mother. It was a pointed and poignant day. We actually exchanged our cards on the day before, because we didn't know how much time she had and she was so eager to do so. "Is it today?" she asked that Friday and that Saturday, until finally I said "Yes, it's today." How silly to think it mattered the exact day.
This week I sent out several cards to women who have mothered me in some fashion. I collect beautiful cards that are blank inside, so I can write my own message most of the time. I know how much it means to me to be appreciated, and how often women's ways are devalued or go unrecognized. And so, I want to voice to them, again and again, that I value their contributions to my life. And not just on Mother's Day.
Photo by thandiwe: One mother and 'other mother' I know