For an entire decade, my Mother’s Day gift to my mom was the same.
I’d work a 12-hour day with her at a makeshift greenhouse held together by plastic, nails and two-by-fours. The greenhouse, owned by my stepfather, went up every spring in the parking lot of a bowling alley on Oberlin Avenue in Lorain, Ohio.
The greenhouse was a money maker mainly because of my mom. She treated every customer like family whether they were buying a single tomato plant or a truckload of ferns.
She stood at that greenhouse in the rain, snow and sun, 60 hours or more a week, three straight months with no off days. My people skills were nothing compared to hers. She could charm anyone while I would quickly get irritated.
“Is Sharon here?” asked a wobbly old woman while I was in the midst of organizing endless plastic trays of annuals that were cutting my hands. “Yes, she’s with a customer over there. Can I help you? I’m her daughter.”
“No, I’ll wait for Sharon,” – that was everyone’s response. My mom cared, more than I did, and it was obvious.
Every day, a little old Italian man named John rode his 10-speed bike to the greenhouse to bring my mom a warm orange soda. She didn’t like warm orange soda, but she never told him that. She simply stashed it with the other orange sodas he had given her and thanked him. He was confusing to listen to because he spoke with a broken accent, but somehow my mom understood him.
He’d ride off on his bike and wave, and I’d wonder how the man managed to never get hit by a car. He may have been homeless, I don’t know? In my mom’s eyes, he was a gift she treasured.
Years later in retirement, when my mom became legally blind from macular degeneration, she still found creative ways to spread joy even if it was putting a bouquet of flowers in the mailbox for the mail lady, who came to my mom’s funeral.
Think of all the ways your mom has touched your heart and the hearts of those around you. What are her greatest qualities? Is it her infectious laugh? Is it her welcoming charm that makes every meal feel as if you are sitting at an outdoor cafe in Madrid? Is it her instinct to know just the right time to call when you are feeling lonely? What gifts of love has your mom passed on to you? Those gifts are in your heart and it is your responsibility to pass them on to others.
This is the first Mother’s Day without my mom, and I miss her smiling face. I’m crying as I write this, but really these are tears of happiness. To know someone loved me as unconditionally as she did is a gift. If she were here today, I’d hug her and tell her how much I appreciated her. Then we would laugh and joke about our greenhouse days and wonder how we survived the little old ladies who wanted one tomato plant, the man who was buying ferns for every mother he knew and of course, John and his 10-speed.
Instead, I bought a dozen pink roses and drove to the cemetery just a few miles away from Oberlin Avenue. I stood by her grave, next to grass that hasn’t completely grown in, and thanked my mom for the beautiful garden she planted in my heart.