Mother's Giftby Bridget Stuart
Ah. Mother's Day already. And I've been so frantic with my move to the new house, wrestling boxes and chairs and side tables and beds and two punch bowls into submission, that I forgot to send my mother a present. Or even a card.
I say to myself: I'll call her to wish her a happy Mother's Day. She won't mind that I forgot.
And it's true. She won't.
She knows how frightened I've been, single with children, picking through the wreckage of a torn-up marriage. She's done everything she can to help as I rebuild our safety and happiness brick by heavy brick.
My mother knows what it's like to flee and to lose everything in the flight, everything except the faith that something better is waiting if you can just hold on long enough to find it. She did it as a child.
Her mother was Sephardic, in a Europe that was starting to kill Jews. Her father, a Catholic, moved the family from one country to another, always just one step ahead of the anti-Semitism that he feared would tear his wife away from him. From Greece to Italy; from Italy to France; from France to Monaco. And one day, when my mother was only six years old, they took a shopping trip to New York…and could never go back. The Nazis had closed down every avenue of escape but one. My mother's family kept their lives, but forfeited everything they'd worked so hard to achieve in a lifetime. My mother went from being a pampered dolly to an immigrant in New York City, learning to speak English in a public school.
I've thought about this a lot since my own forfeit; what my grandmother and my mother lost. And what they gained.
When I was a child, I asked my grandmother if I could see the fabulous wedding dress she wore in a sepia-toned photograph on her bureau. She shrugged an elegant shoulder and told me no.
"Why not?" I asked. "Where is it?"
"Hitler took it," she said airily, in her fascinating accent, waving one slender white hand in the air. A gesture that said, what can you do? Accept it. Move on.
With the strength of my grandmother and my mother, I'm moving on, too. This great gift, they gave to me.
I can't give anything greater than the passing on of that gift to my own children.
Each one of you reading this has a mother--
happy Mother's Day.