Every day I get the Merriam Webster word of the day in my inbox (I know, I know). Today, on this chilly Mother’s Day, it is the adjective "indomitable" gracing the page, and yet again, I ponder on the existence of an all knowing God of the Internet, for there is no other word that better describes my mother.
There is no stopping my mom. As a matter of fact, I am surprised that my mother is not an alternative definition/ image for indomitable. Look up the word, and just an asterisk could appear with the words see Maria. My mom gets what she wants and lives the life she chooses. She is 89, slowing down, and age is having its way way with her. Maria is not going down without a fight. My mother has been that way her whole life.
Raised by a miserably abusive man after her mother died, she escaped, and created a new life. She married had a child and tried and failed for years for a second one. After years of miscarriages and 1950’s and 60’s treatments, a little girl was born, ten and half years after the oldest son. That baby girl was me. Three years later, after being told she could not have more children, my sister Amy was born. She delighted in us, spoiled us, and somehow, having had no examples of parenting to emulate, created a home that valued generosity, education, cultural experiences, and plain old morality. Looking back now, I know my mom was trying to erase her childhood with ours, a do over of sorts... and well that never really works. But her effort was amazing, and I have so many crazy, happy ,uniquely Maria memories that I feel the need to share a couple on this challenging quarantined Mother’s Day. My mom was big on celebrating birthdays and holidays. The first birthday party I really remember is when I turned three. We had to have the party inside because it was so hot and humid out, yet I was still wearing tights because I thought my fantastic dress and shoes looked better with tights and not baby socks. The dress was a sunshine yellow and when I spun the pleats flattened and the whole dress, not just the skirt, swirled, which I believe started the dress obsession I have to this day. There was also a large crown and a triple layer cake my mom made, complete with pink frosting. I look at the picture and my mom looks pretty tired. Of course she was almost seven months pregnant, had a thirteen year old, and a husband who did not do any “women’s work”; she was and is a procrastinator, so she may have been up all night. What you can’t see in the picture is that there were at least eight little girls at the party, and that every little girl received an epic treat bag. And I know there were games, and the inevitable melt downs. All I remember is the cake, the crown, and twirling. What I see now is indomitable Maria, mid July heat, no air conditioning, a headstrong three year old, a teen age boy, a Latin husband, and late stage pregnancy; none of these were strong enough to match my mom’s will to rewrite the narrative. Perfect party for her three year old; check.
And so it went. If God blesses you with two daughters, it’s your duty to go all out. Put the long awaited baby under the tree surrounded by gifts, with a toy in each hand. Have a playpen with adorable sheets and a fun blowup elephant, let the world see your joy and celebrate this great fortune. Believe with all your heart that God is good, despite what has happened before. Buy matching dresses and pajamas for the two girls every Christmas. If the small home does not have a fireplace to hang stockings, make it happen, buy a life size cardboard one and put it in the basement rec room, just the idea of a rec room was impossible in her childhood. Nothing would stop her. Note the exhaustion in Maria’s face in my confirmation photo. We were all to decorate our stoles. I put my confirmation name and a dove on the “thing”, as I called it. When I woke up on confirmation day, my stole was everything short of bedazzled, more words, embroidery, images, and fringe were added. My mom had already been disappointed in my 98 on the confirmation test, she was not going to have the additional embarrassment of an ordinary stole on top of that. The beautiful dress she had tailor made for me deserved more than a lackluster stole.
Indomitable. This incredible force of will has made me proud. It has also aggravated and humbled me. What I know for certain is my mother is not like anyone else I have ever known. Smarter, quicker, wilier than most, she can get herself out of a jam by hook or by crook, small fib or tall tale, by any means necessary. My mother has faced more adversity and tragedy than anyone I have ever known, or even read about. She has lived her life with a generosity that belied her upbringing. My mom constantly helped out those in need, in particular other struggling women. My sister and I would often be annoyed by and jealous of all these women and children she “adopted”. It did not matter, Maria did what she thought was right, and didn’t think much of what anyone else thought. What an incredible example to have, even when not appreciated.
She carried on, and still does. So today I send all my love to Maria. My mother who lost her mother very young, and her beloved son, her eldest child, too soon. She is spending the day alone, with not even the Yankees or Church to sustain her. Hopefully "the amazon", as she calls it, will be delivering all the goodies I sent to her. I know at the end of the day she will be fine; she will get flowers, gifts and calls al day long. But more importantly she will bask in the memories of the good old days, of a job well done. Indomitable doesn’t even begin to cover it. So, I send the spirit of Maria to all this Mother’s Day; because Lord, we can all use it right now. Whether a mother or not, content or facing loneliness and loss, we can be generous, loving and strong... indomitable.