The heart of a mother


I never expected it would be so hard to find black flats. They're either too tight or too wide. They dig into my ankle or slip off when I walk. They fit right but I'm just not too crazy about the way they look. They're a classic staple for any work wardrobe, but so far the search has proved to be altogether fruitless.


But you know who doesn't give up in such a search? Who isn't disheartened by the challenge? Who doesn't think twice about browsing the online pages of DSW until far too late at night?


My mother.


It's her birthday today. And while her relentless pursuit of black flats for me is one of the sillier proofs of her love, it is a proof just the same. And it illustrates with such simple beauty the kind of mother she is.


In the past six months, black flats have been the least of our concerns. We've faced the twofold shock of my dad's death and my departure from the convent, events whose significance for our family I can't possibly overestimate. And my mother, my beautiful, faithful, vulnerable, courageous mother, has been for me a source of immeasurable strength in the thick of the tempest.


And her dogged perseverance—not just in the search for black flats, but in providing for my mundane and ever-evolving needs with abundant generosity—doesn't phase me in the slightest. In fact, it has become almost commonplace. How easy it is to take what we've always known for granted, isn't it? Yet what I've always known of my mother is this: she loves me. She never makes me to feel like a burden, however glaring my dependence. She cares for me as if caring for me were her only responsibility in the world, as if she weren't just beginning to navigate life as a sudden widow, for instance.


I have no other experience of motherhood to compare it to, of course, but even I can see: what has become commonplace after 30 years is, in truth, extraordinary. Black flats? Commonplace. Unseen hours and dollars spent, uncomplainingly, for a simple need of her daughter's? Hours and dollars that could have been put to use in countless other (arguably far more important) ways? Watching her daughter open a couple of shoeboxes for Christmas, only to find that those pairs didn't work, so immediately beginning the search again right then and there with a laugh and shrug? Extraordinary.


This doesn't even begin to scratch the surface. But it shines a light on the very heart of my mother, a heart that has been a home and a haven for me throughout my life. Imperfect though she may be, she loves me. Loves me oh so deeply with a self-forgetful love, a love of joy and creativity, patience and forgiveness. And that heart of hers that I keep coming back to, one of precious few refuges of mine in these trying days, is a heart of gold. I want a heart like that.


Perhaps one day I'll have a daughter to buy black flats for, and I hope I'll be up to the task, hope I'll be ready to display my love for her in the least flashy of ways. Until then, I'll keep on receiving my mother's love, poured out with no conditions and no end.

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