From the COLlive inbox:
My sister is in seminary in Israel this year and she called up the other week to tell my mother about an assignment she had. The assignment was to write an essay on the topic ‘Eishes Chayil’. Before my mother had a chance to ask her which special woman she had decided to write about, my sister informed her that the woman she had decided to use at the subject of her essay… was my mother.
When I heard this I was, like my mother, touched and pleasantly surprised at the idea. I thought of the myriads of women- Rebbetzins, Chessed organizers, women who had gone through terrible Nisyonos, women who ran successful businesses- who were probably being used for this assignment. But then the more I thought about it, the more I realized how fitting and appropriate it was.
The world we live in today uses the term ‘mother’ in a very figurative form. The Oxford dictionary says briefly that a mother is ‘a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth’. Wikipedia, though hardly a reliable source, gives the ‘mother’ a little more credit, referring to her as the one who gave birth to and raised a child. What caught my eye was the explanation at the end: Because of the complexity and differences of a mother’s social, cultural, and religious definitions and roles, it is challenging to specify a universally acceptable definition for the term.
My mother was they call nowadays a ‘stay at home’ mom. She never ‘worked’ a day in her life. In today’s day and age, an educated woman is a woman worthy of respect. Every girl my age, and yes, I include myself, is in some kind of program, earning some kind of degree or pursuing some kind of job interest. Bachelors and Masters and qualifications- words like these are jargon to my mother because her job doesn’t officially need any form of government recognition at all! And perhaps that’s because to earn a degree of that level would take too many years of study… because a mother- a mother is something that can never be defined, but if I would describe mine in any way, let me tell you what her ‘job’ meant to me in my life growing up.
My mother was there in the morning when I left for school, was home if I needed to leave early due to a headache or fever, and was waiting for us, usually at the stove cooking a hearty, hot dinner, when we got home. My mother had no problem taking us to a dentist appointment and then hopping on the bus down the road to have some time together at a restaurant before heading back to school. My mother was the one who would rush to school with the homework we had left behind. My mother was the one who would run over to the neighbor to send the forgotten lunch that was left on the kitchen counter. My mother was the one who made that lunch for me, every day before I went to school, rain or shine. My mother was the one who woke me up every morning, to the extent that I did not own an alarm clock until I went to seminary. And how I hated it then!
My mother would make sure I came home each day to a sparkling house, the aroma of her amazing soups wafting through the kitchen. My mother was the first person I turned to with my social rifts, my clashes with teachers, my insecurities- because I knew she had all the time in the world for me. My mother is one of those who spends half her day saying Tehillim because she says mine and all my siblings and all their spouses and all their children knhr, may the numbers keep growing. And that’s besides for the daily portion. And that’s besides for the multiple lists she’s on for those who are sick/ need a Shidduch.
My mother shows me what it means to respect a mother by the above and beyond duties that she extends herself with to her own mother.
My mother doesn’t run any Chessed organizations and didn’t found any great programs for N’shei, but she makes it her business to take the time to go to a Shiur once, sometimes twice a week and is part of a woman’s volunteer rota to set up the hall before a Chasune and will be the first to say yes to making dinner for a family who have recently had a baby.
My mother was there for me as I grappled with the complexities of life growing up. She listened, she empathized, sympathized, advised, encouraged, admonished when necessary and admired when I hit moments of triumph. My mother would sit for hours with me after my dates, rehashing the evening I had spent and analyzing the good and the bad with me. My mother made me realize what kind of home I want to build because the way I was brought up is forever ingrained in me. My mother made me see that Middos and middos and middos are the main thing in life. And so is Hakaros Hatov. And so is Eidelikeit. And so is Tznius. I don’t how all these things could be THE main thing, but if she said they are, then they must be.
They joke about the mother who described her job as a therapist, psychiatrist, physiologist, doctor, masseuse, counselor, teacher etc, but let me tell you- for me and my siblings, this is no joke. My mother is all of those things, and way more.
This week is my mother’s birthday- Chaf Aleph Shevat. As her daughter and one who is shortly going to be walked down to the Chuppah by her iyh, I find it a privilege and a responsibility to have her as a mother.
With my own marriage on the horizon, my hopes and dreams are becoming more real and vivid and I desperately yearn that I will be able to be there for my children the same way she has always been there for us all.
I used to listen to some of my friends- those who are in school to become doctors, lawyers, dieticians, nurses, accountants- and I used to be awed by them- (the degree I am working toward is writing and education, a career that I hope will never become who I am, but merely an ‘in between’ stanza to the life I hope to lead as a mother iyh)- I used to marvel at their ambition and their purpose.
But we are Jewish. Chochmas Noshim Bonsoh Beisah- a woman’s wisdom builds her household. My mother is a mother in every sense of the word. She is the epitome of what the wikipedia and the Oxford dictionary failed to describe. She is a mother who has, does and always will, live for her children and is devoted to them in every way.
My sister was right in choosing my mother as the subject of her Eishes Chayil essay. My mother may not be the biggest Shluchah, a famous cook, a keynote speaker at the Chaf Beis Shevat convention. But she is the Eishes Chayil that Shlomo Hamelech talked about. She is the woman who made our home the way I want my home one day to be.
Happy birthday Ma! I only hope and pray that I can do for my own house and family what you did for ours…