My mother’s favorite thing to ask me was if I knew how much she loved me. She’d ask it five minutes after we had fought over what time I should be home or whether I had applied enough sunscreen to my back in the summer. She’d ask me the question after a soccer game when my bangs were matted to my head and I was tired and cranky. She especially liked to ask me this immediately after she had infuriated me in ways that only a mother could. She used to say that growing up with two sisters had taught her how to get in the last word of every argument.
As good as my mother was at pushing my buttons, she also knew exactly how to get me to open up. Driving down the road on our way to Kohls with her purse stuffed full of coupons, I would find myself telling her everything that had been happening in my life. My afternoon walks to class turned into “our time” as she called it and she would get very offended if I forgot to call or was running too late to talk. When I did make it out to class on time, she would demand to know everything that was happening in my life, how many green vegetables I had eaten, if I had read for my English class that morning, and if I had remembered to brush my teeth. By my sophomore year in college, my mother could tell you both my roommates schedules better than I could.
Sunday night was family dinner and being late to the table was non-negotiable. First to be served was always the vegetable followed by a threat that if we didn’t finish our broccoli we couldn’t have spaghetti. Dinners would always start out the same with my father trying to engage everyone in an intellectual conversation and my mother interrupting to announce that the pizza “might not look as good as it tastes”. She was however, a Jewish mother at heart and if we weren’t full by the end of the meal, she hadn’t done her job.
School lunches were also a big production and the highlight of most evenings. My brother would eat anything that she gave him and she would often boast that she could throw together anything last minute. I, on the other hand, had a much bigger problem eating “the stink fish” tuna or peanut butter and no jelly sandwiches. Those nights would often end the same way with her telling me “next time, you make your own lunch”. Somehow, I remained the only kid in high school whose mother still packed her lunch every night. I was also probably the only kid in high school who still got notes in her lunch and by the end of my senior year I had amassed a large pile of sticky notes with messages such as “good luck sunshine” and “love yah tons” on them.
Through everything, my mother managed to carve a place in the heart of every person she ever met. The nurses that took care of her at UPenn would crowd into her room and she would give them advice on finding a nice husband. The walls of her hospital room alone were covered with enough cards and letters to fill a book. My mother loved the attention, she loved the visitors, and she loved hearing all the news from back home. She fought for a long time because she wanted her family to know how much she loved them. So here’s to you mumsie, I love you.