أم (in Arabic, if is translates correctly):
母 (“Traditional” Chinese)
No matter what you call her, she is the most important person in your world, for without her you wouldn’t be here.
This is my tribute to my mom.
My mother was born August 21st 1930- something (what, I don’t have to tell you, do I?) in Port-au-Prince Haiti, (where Mother’s Day is celebrated the last Sunday of May, this year May 31st) one of a great many children born to my grandfather. She was born with the “upstanding citizen” gene: hard-working, full of determination, integrity, honesty, and spiritually rich. She didn’t have an easy life in Haiti: I get the impression she was often the de facto eldest (even though she has older siblings), in charge of making sure things were done right.
I’m guessing she didn’t always get it right, but she certainly learned some serious leadership skills along the way.
She was a Girl Guide AND a Scout Master in Haiti, a fact that I didn’t find out until my own daughters became Girl Scouts. (I knew about the Guiding, just not the Boy Scouting).
Anyway, she was successful enough as a nursing student in Haiti to attend Syracuse University, and in the late 1960’s she became a nurse in Chicago. There, she met my aunt Fifi (Marie-Andrée is her “real” name), who became friends with her. It was through my aunt that my mother met my father, Michel.
At the time, he was studying medicine in Mexico, at the Universidad de Mexico. During a trip to Chicago to visit his sister, who introduced him to my mom. (Actually, I gather my aunt told her brother “Inan [that’s my mom’s nickname] would be perfect for you!” She set them up, and she was right).
My father courted my mother from all the way in Mexico: letters, jewelry, promises of devotion, and eventually proposed. They were married in 1968.
A little less than two years later, I was born.
By then, my parents had moved to Canada, having decided it was a better place to raise a child.
My mother chose well: my father was a good provider, a hard worker, a bit of a romantic who was dedicated to doing as much as he could to ensure my mother and I were well cared for.
My mother taught me how to read and write. She gave me my base. From her I inherited a certain sense of style and discernment, determination, and the ability to forgive those who “trespass against me”. Above all, she taught me tolerance. The word is too often used to mean something sinister, but all it is, really, is the ability to accept others for who they are and forgive their sins based on that acceptance. Tolerance means that I feel confident being who I am, without denying someone else their right to do the same. It means pitying the low-lifes who do truly egregious things, knowing that they must be incarcerated or otherwise punished, while never losing sight of the fact that I, myself, am not a perfect being. It means I can let my children “hang out” with people of another religion, creed, color, without assuming they are bad just because they are different.
In me, tolerance also translates to a level of optimism that (I hope!) generally makes me a pleasant person to know and be with.
Unfortunately, and much to my mother’s chagrin, you wouldn’t know how much I appreciate my mother from looking at us. From my father (perhaps combined with my natural proclivities as a Cancer), I guess I inherited a certain amount of reservation. I don’t call much, I certainly don’t write much. I suck at birthday cards, Christmas cards, “just because” cards, even Mother’s Day cards. Oh once in a while I remember in time… more or less. Usually less. I don’t think my mom has ever received a card from me that got there in time, unless it was an electronic card, and even those tend to show up late in the day. I don’t visit (can’t quite afford to, really), and I haven’t had a working camera in years. Well, actually, I have one, but I also have way too many undeveloped rolls of film, stacked up in my freezer. Our last digital camera died years ago, and my cell phone was the cheapest I could find: it doesn’t have a camera, either.
Doesn’t mean I don’t care.
I’m just lousy at being a good, loving daughter. Which isn’t meant as an excuse, or anything, just an explanation. I owe a lot to my mom, from my love of reading, to my sense of right and wrong, to my very presence. I know I don’t say it (or show it) much, but I love my mom.
This is to my mom.
Happy Mother’s Day!