I have the best mom in the world. Sorry everybody else.
From the time I was little until today, I have never for a millisecond had to doubt or worry about my mother’s love for me. I am sure that without my ever having to think about it or consciously reference it, her love forms the most unshakable bedrock in the foundation of my psychological health, from my confidence to my optimism to my self-worth to my openhearted approach to most other people.
From my very existence to my recent attainment of my PhD, there is no one more directly responsible for my being here and being as I am than my mom. It is the sort of enormous debt one can never pay back but only ever hope to pay forward to children of one’s own. And no one could ever have my interests more purely at heart than she does. And no one, not even I, could be more unabashedly proud of me or anything I accomplish than she is.
Nearly every good trait I have is either a variation or poor imitation of hers and it always brings me great pride to discover a way that I emulate her. Through whatever combinations of genetic and interpersonal influence, I have inherited, learned, and continue to aspire to acquire her icebreaking gregariousness, disarmingly self-deprecating sense of humor, open-book honesty (even with utter strangers), fierce loyalty, appreciation of people, mature self-awareness, emotional resilience, dogged principledness, reflexive hospitality, utter openheartedness, bottomless ability to forgive, scrupulous work ethic, clear-headed perspective, unshakable moral uprightness, and full-hearted, full-time devotion to love.
There is one thing my mom does all day long, from the time she wakes up until the time she goes to sleep and it is love. She loves her great-granddaughter, she loves her grandsons, she loves her granddaughters, she loves her sons, she loves her daughters-in-law, she loves her sister, she loves her former sisters-in-law, she loves her cousin, she loves her nieces and nephews, she loves her friends in Florida, she loves her friends in New York from every era of her life, she loves the parents she lost, she loves her clients, she loves her coworkers, she loves her favorite TV shows, she loves her pool, she loves her view, she loves Clay Aiken—she just loves, and always has time and a hot meal for everybody, even the people who drive her insane.
I do not know a single human being anywhere in my experience who so immediately and wholeheartedly adopts new people she meets. She approaches everyone like a loving mother or a loving friend. When she sold real estate, the deal was you not only got a piece of property you got my mom for a friend. When you marry one of her sons you’re not just an “in-law”, you’re the daughter she never had.
She pours nearly ever free penny she has into gifts and outings for her grandchildren and her children. She plans her calendar around the next vacation experience she is going to give her grandchildren. And she doesn’t love the grandchildren just because she gets to send them home. They clamor for their individual turns to have a special day with Grandma which ends in a sleepover.
And no one is a better teacher of love than my mother. She is scrupulously unpetty, she mocks guilt-based parenting and fishing for love and never engages in it, she is patient, she is kind, she drops the past, and she gives ceaselessly. She criticizes when necessary, she stands up for herself when mistreated, and she never abusively tries to leverage her love for unwarranted control over those she loves. She praises often and honestly, never just to patronize, and she advises wisely, never just to force her way even if it’s wrong. (Except when she keeps insisting I use the air mattress instead of sleep on the couch when I visit. She’s intractably and mysteriously stubborn and wrong on this point.)
Her love is a product of her strength and not her need. She loves because she sees so much good that deserves to be loved, not because she is afraid of being unloved. She deliberately allows herself her vulnerability only because she knows how worth the risk love is, not because she is weak or needy. She is self-sufficient and demonstrably above compromising her integrity or independence of mind and practice for others’ approval.
And even though my mother does not know the first thing about formal philosophy, and is baffled and disturbed by my atheism, it was she that trained me and liberated me to talk freely, frankly, and fearlessly through my thoughts and emotions. It was she who raised me with both a strong ethos of honesty and a strong commitment to explaining why what was right was right and why what was wrong was wrong. It was she who instilled in me from a very young age the right and necessity both to be myself and to express myself, and who embedded deep within my unconscious the confidence that I could do these things and be loved.
And, I would be remiss if I did not point out that I have lived in one of the best neighborhoods for Italian food in all of New York, which is one of the best places for Italian food in all of the world, for the last decade, and can confirm that no one makes an eggplant rollatini, a meatball, chicken francese, or fettuccine alfredo that even approaches my mom’s. And there is no better chocolate cake in the wide world than my mom’s. These are just facts.
I love you with all my heart, Mom. Happy Birthday. Enjoy Clay Aiken.