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A Mother's Love

A Mother's Love

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I hum along with the CD as I contentedly prepare the salad for dinner. The chicken cutlets sizzle in the frying pan, their enticing smell wafting through the house. I have prepared dinner early today in anticipation of a busy evening of after-school extracurricular activities and the endless number of carpool runs ahead of me.

"Mommy, Mommy, I don't understand what I'm supposed to do for homework," calls my seven-year-old daughter from the dining room where she is poring over her grammar homework.

"Can you please ask Sarah to help you?" I call back, "You know my Hebrew is not so good."

The chair scrapes as she pushes it away from the table. The sound of her footsteps pitter-patters down the hall.

A black, boiling anger rises from the pit of my stomachI hear the muffled volley of voices. I can't make out the words but I can just imagine them as I hear their escalation. First, the high pitched, tiny voice of my little girl; her pleading tone rings out clearly. Then the staccato angry bursts of my teenaged daughter's refusal.

I grip the spatula in my hand furiously. A black, boiling anger rises from the pit of my stomach, its burning lava frothing over the edge. Why is it so hard for her to be gracious and give, I fume. No, I stop myself. I promised I will be as positive as I can and remember that she has been captured by this alien hormonal force for a few years.

Last week, I was asked to gather some pictures of various members of the family, including grandparents and great-grandparents, to be included in an ad for a new Jewish genealogy web site. I pulled out the many photo albums from the bottom shelf behind the door in the guest room, untouched and forgotten for many years, like the memories they contain. I picked up a large stiff-backed album, its blue cover coated with dust. Quickly wiping away the dust, I cracked open its cover. I touched the glossy, transparent plastic sheeting carefully preserving my beautiful pictures and began to browse through the pages.

A smile escaped and my heart leaped as the recollections captured in those pictures assailed my senses and danced before my mind's eye. Like the year we decided to dress our five children up as the five Books of the Torah for Purim. The kids gathered around the kitchen table and we gave them fabric paint to decorate their pillow cases. Or the numerous pictures capturing the birthday parties we held. Oh, the animated discussions we would have prior to the parties deciding what kind of cake to make and how we would decorate it.

My eyes lingered on a picture of my now teenage daughter at the age of six. Posing for the camera, she proudly displayed the buttered toast she was in the midst of eating. Leaning forward towards the camera, she playfully stuck out her tongue, daring us to scold her for her impertinence. The delicate and slightly unruly curls of her shoulder length silky chestnut hair framed her smiling face. Her laughing brown eyes shone brightly.

Once when she was much younger than she is now, she read an article in a family-oriented magazine about the field of play therapy.

"That's what I want to be when I grow up," she exclaimed definitively.

"Really?" I inquired, "Why?"

I miss the smell of her baby soft skin when she would sit on my lap"What better job could you have than to be able to help a child out of pain by playing with them?" Her goodness and empathy for those who are suffering defined her. Her exuberant nature and celebration of life was infectious.

I miss the smell of her baby soft skin when she, being the youngest at the time, would sit on my lap flanked by her siblings on either side during bedtime story hour. Her skin smelled sweet, like challah fresh out of the oven. I miss feeling her heat as she snuggled close to me when she'd crawl into bed with me on lazy, cold Sunday mornings and the little chubby arms that would encircle my neck. I miss her enthusiastic retelling of the stories she brought home from the teachers she adored.

Where has my little girl gone, I wonder? Only a glimmer of that former self seems to lie before this new, defiant face that now glares back at me all too often. Her love of life is camouflaged by a sullen silence as she retreats into her room, and into herself. I remind myself to hang onto the memories of her sweetness, her willingness to give and share, the ever-bright glow of her intelligent and inquisitive eyes mirroring her delight with the world.

I am determined to fortify myself with those precious memories as together we ride the turbulent waves of the storm called "the teenage years." I am determined to be stronger than this foe vying to come between me and my beloved child.

The complexity of mother-daughter relationships is inescapable. My own mother is still my blanket of protection and acceptance, though I am now a mother myself. I walk into her home and I am immediately enveloped by her presence. She was always my greatest advocate and admirer – even when awarding me with a deserved tongue lashing.

Yet, I remember my pain and confusion when I began to view my mother through my maturing teenage eyes. I recall the raw tension and frustration growing between us as we grappled our way through this new stage in life. "How was your day?' she would inquire brightly as I walked through the door, and then would periodically punctuate my sharing with distracted "uh-hu's."

I learned to appreciate the two minute daily check-in phone callsThe exterior of my vision of my loving mother as "perfect" cracked, the jagged pieces of its shell fell away. In its place stood a woman with limitations, a woman who also made mistakes.

It took years for my teenage eyes to adjust and accept the new tenuous terms of our relationship. I learned to acknowledge and appreciate the two minute daily check-in phone calls, or, as I like to call them now – check-ups, as gestures of reaching out. I learned to anticipate and value my mom's quick visits to drop off a treat she had picked up in the grocery store, as expressions of her warm embrace.

I now stand in the place of my mother and I know that my feelings were her feelings and my daughter's feelings were my feelings. I only hope that at the end of the journey my daughter and I are on, she, too, will come to terms with my fallibility and accept my unconditional love for her the way my mother loves me, the way only a mother can love a child.

Today I resisted making that snide, accusatory remark, just as my mother resisted. Yes, there is hope for the future of this relationship. Thank you, Mother – my teacher, my advisor, my example.

Leah Goldman lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel with her husband and five children, and works as a technical writer.
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Lisa Providence, RI May 4, 2013

A Mother's Love Despite any problems I had in my relationship with my mother, I WAS loved! I was nurtured, and never lacked anything I needed.

She died at age 63, and I DO miss her and think about her every day. Reply

M.H. North Miami Beach, Florida April 4, 2008

and teenage boys? Often while my daughter was in her teens I comforted myself by recalling my own teenage years. Yes, I was in that space once, and survived, as did my mother, aleh v'shalom. But teenaged boys? What's that? I'm in the middle of overlapping and concurrent boys' teenage years. A wise rebbitzen said, "Just make sure they have clean clothes and lots of food." I guess she had very easy sons. Well, each boy is different, and the "teens" are manifested differently in each one. The "boy" part--well, I'll never totally get it, but the needing to love them and remember that wonderful baby smell and innocent joy they had --that's the same as with girls. The boys' innocent joy matures into something deeper, and behind the newly sprouting tufts of beard and wisps of mustache there is that beautiful, speciial smile just for "Mommy." You know that smile, the one that was "born" the first time they looked up at you and smiled, at a tender age of just a few weeks old -- thank G-d! Reply

Anonymous Tel Aviv, Israel April 3, 2008

Beautifully written, moving account. Enjoyed it so much. BTW "cold, lazy Sunday mornings" in Israel???? and PS: what wonderful Purim costumes! Reply

Michael Schonberger Calgary, Canada April 1, 2008

Eishet Chaiyil This article truley teaches why Bubba's and Mamma's everywhere are truly deservant of the title from Proverbs 31 every Shabbat! It reminds me fondly of my Mother and her endless love for me! Thank you for reminding me why we are to Honour our Parents!
Yasher Koach!! Reply

Simi Silver Ottawa, Canada March 31, 2008

missing them already Thank you for reminding me to enjoy my five kids (three of them gilrs) while they are still warm and "fresh" out of the oven and still wanting to cuddle! Especially after a long day working when all I want to do is get them to bed and "relax". Reply

Robertha Montego Bay, Jamaica March 31, 2008

Wow I need to be a better Mother with self control. this was good. Thanks Reply

Dini Los Angeles, CA March 31, 2008

Dear Cousin Oh my cousin!!!!! This is so nice! Reply

Fran Jakubowicz Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel March 31, 2008

A mother's love What a beautiful and touching article about that complex but love abounding relationship between mother and daughter. There is a touch of sadness when we watch our daughters grow into women (where did our baby go?!) but tremendous nachas as we see glimpses of the mature women (even as teenagers) they will one day be. Thank you for this lovely article. Reply

Tz. Price March 31, 2008

lovely! looking forward to reading more of your articles. Reply

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