While I was selecting a Mother’s Day card, I picked up what I thought was a simple card (you know, one that says “Happy Mother’s Day!” on the outside and “I love you, Mom!” on the inside and leaves it at that) but when I opened it, I realized it was one of those over-the-top poetic cards that takes up both sides with it’s sappiness.
Usually, I place those cards back on the rack before I’ve done them the honor of reading them. They are, how do you say? NOT ME.
But for some reason, I read this particular card and halfway through, began to cry. Not since my bizarre breakdown during Lindsay Lohan’s final scene in Freaky Friday have tears taken me by such surprise.
But I figured the card must resonate and I bought it for my Mom. I even mailed it instead of waiting to see her because it felt more special that way.
Recently, I was involved in a conversation with a few friends who were talking about little things their mothers did for them when they were little. Things they want to pass on to their own kids.
One friend said that her mom used to go away a lot for work, leaving very early in the morning. On these occasions, her mother would always leave a personal note under her daughter’s pillow so her goodbye was there when she woke up.
The other talked about how her mother used to make drawings on the ziplock bags that housed her peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches (back before peanutbutter was the equivalent of bringing a loaded gun to school). So every day, she would look forward to opening up her brown paper bag at lunch to see what her mother at drawn.
For some reason, I couldn’t think of an anecdote to add about my Mom.
What little something would I pass on to Mazzy?
On the way home, I started thinking about chicken cutlets.
Whenever my mom used to make breaded chicken cutlets, she would call me into the kitchen and say that the chicken was ready to go to the beach. She had three stations— a bowl with raw egg, a plate with breadcrumbs, and the pan. I would pick up each raw cutlet with a fork, as my mom instructed me how to show them each a good time at the beach, one by one.
First, they take a swim. (dip in the egg)
Next, they play in the sand. (roll in the breadcrumbs)
And finally, they lie out in the sun. (lie on the pan)
My mother might not be the most adventurous cook but the sizzle of those wet sandy cutlets soaking up the hot sun on the pan was extremely satisfying.
Yesterday, my Mom received my card and called me on the phone to thank me with tears in her voice.
I told her I was going to pass down ‘chicken at the beach’ to Mazzy. That it was one of the ‘little things’ that always stuck with me.
She then reminded me of how she always sang the song “Maria” from West Side Story but replaced “Maria” with “Ilana”. And then after years of singing the song, we were in a random store where it played over the loudspeaker and I was shocked to learn that it did not really contain my name.
She reminded me that she used to whistle outside my bedroom door before she came in to wake me up, to ease the shock of the mornings. And how she always saw me off to school by saying, “See you later, alligator.” She reminded me of going out for Indian food whenever my father was away because he hated it and it was her favorite. She reminded me of pigtails and shrinky dinks and peanutbutter cookies criss-crossed with a fork.
She reminded me that every night she lay down next me as I fell asleep.
But she also said, her own mother didn’t show her much affection growing up and because they came to America after being devastated and displaced during World War II, as a child, she always felt guilty for having fun.
My mother said she wasn’t really concerned with the little things. She wanted her daughters to know, without a doubt, they were loved and to make sure our childhood was filled with laughter and fun.
What better sentiment could I possibly pass on to my daughter?
What’s a little thing you remember your mother doing for you when you were young?