La vita è bella (My Beautiful Life)

Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that I wrestle with ambivalent feelings.  I LOVE being a mom to my three grown children and know I’ve been blessed beyond measure to have been fortunate to have been a stay-at-home mom for most of their lives.  Mother’s Day however, reminds me of my own little momma who celebrates 10 years in Heaven on Mother’s Day weekend this year.

As much as I’ve loved being a full-time mom, being a grandmother is that much better, times a thousand!  My grandson and I have a relationship that’s entirely different from what I share with my children. He told me only two weeks ago that he liked spending time with me. There is no greater feeling in life than that kind of affirmation. It’s so funny to hear your children complain about the grandkids you get to spoil with protests like, “That’s not fair! You never used to let US do that!”

The older I get, the more I realize that the lessons my mother taught me growing up have come home to roost and I sometimes find myself saying things my mother used to say to me, even though I vowed, “I WILL NEVER say that to my children!” 

My little Sicilian momma, Antonina, was a skinny little bird of a woman who barely weighed enough to keep from being blown away in a strong desert windstorm. But, my oh my, that little black-haired woman (black from a bottle, that is) could put the fear of God into you with a look and a subsequent finger waving!

Her diminutive size belied her hot Sicilian temper that could spark and ignite faster than an Italian sausage sizzling on a fiery charcoal barbecue.  When Mom gave you the look you knew the finger waving was only seconds away and your best defense was to retreat to a neutral zone.

I’m convinced that Sicilian mommas invented the look.  My mother’s look was resplendent with just the amount of eye roll. The look was punctuated with a piercing scowl and pinched mouth that could reduce you to tears and liquefy your bowels in a matter of seconds, especially once she raised the finger of doom and pointed it a mere inch from your nose.

Sicilian mommas discipline with loud voice inflections and frantic hand gestures; which explains my own propensity for hand-waving. If I were ever to lose the use of my hands, I’d be rendered totally mute, incapable of speech.  A contest of wills and verbal battles between Sicilian mothers and daughters is a sight to behold. With all the gesticulating and hand waving going on, an innocent bystander could be caught in the cross fire and sustain serious injury if they weren’t able to duck quickly enough.

My own daughters and I have benefitted from the lessons my mother taught me and we’ve established a circle of safety for our own well-being whenever we engage in any type of verbal repartee.  Of course we still communicate with hand gestures and voice inflections, but we observe a 12 to 18 inch perimeter of safety so as to avoid inflicting bodily harm to each other.

Even though my mother was tiny and loud at times, she also possessed a gentle soul. She loved her own three children fiercely and would have walked through fire for me and my brother and sister. Because of her own rigid upbringing, my mother oftentimes could be undemonstrative with the softer side of her character.  I often compare my mother with a Tootisie Roll lollipop; all hard and unyielding on the outside, but soft and gooey on the inside. Once my mother let her guard down and you were able to penetrate the soft underbelly of her fragile emotions she left no doubt that she loved deeply.

In spite of what kids believe growing up, we mothers don’t have eyes in the back of our head and we don’t always know if our children are telling the truth or not. Most mothers – myself included, are like the Secret Service in the fact that we would take a bullet for our children without question.

Being a mom is a gift from God I try never to take for granted.  There have been times my children have driven me to the brink of insanity.  (Oh, that year my oldest daughter was 12 and the youngest was two and we did puberty and the terrible two’s all at the same time!)  Luckily though, there have been times my children have rescued me from that fall to insanity with a timely hug or a loving word of encouragement.

As I get older, I find I’m becoming more friend than parent to my adult children. We enjoy hanging out with each other and we’ve established boundaries that keep me from rendering dictatorial edicts. They allow me to offer suggestions … but only when asked.  I feel privileged that my grown children still want to be active in my life and still include me in their lives. I don’t want to waste time sweating the small stuff with them.  I’ve learned from my mother that life is entirely too short for that kind of nonsense.

My mother, Antonina, or Lee as she was known to those who loved her, passed away quietly in her sleep the day before Mother’s Day 10 years ago this month.  She and I didn’t always have the easiest relationship, but there isn’t a day that passes that I still don’t miss her. With time the bad memories have drifted away only to be replaced with warm feelings of appreciation for the woman who bore me and reared me.  As mothers, none of us can ever be “the perfect mom.” My mom taught me that it’s okay to be a little loud and a little hard when necessary as long as you learn to show your soft gooey side from time-to-time.

There is a quote from Maya Angelou which says:  “I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.”  These words resonate in my spirit especially on Mother’s Day, a day which prompts me to remind others to love your mothers today — as you never know when they may be suddenly taken from you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there! Treat your children as the gifts they are and when you are older they will love you as the gift you have been to them!

Blessings in Christ,

Kathy K.