SUNDAY, May 9 – Dear Jennifer, Happy Mother’s Day!
Today your children received a collection entitled Memories, short stories from your many friends, varying from your first days in Kindergarten to the Maryland suburbs, from high school to London, from college to your final days in Amsterdam. Memories of you that will be part of them, until they have children of their own and will be able to tell them about their grandmother.
This morning I’m crying because I miss you so much and because you were – and still are – a good mother. I see you in everything the children do right – and sometimes wrong. Your wisdom, your love, your principles, your annoying habits, and your warmth. But above all, your unconditional maternal love. That is what we celebrate today.
Quietly, in our thoughts, but also exuberantly.
I think of you and recall our discussions on parenthood and raising children, about the way our parents brought up their children, and how we were inspired by them or just the opposite. I remember how you resolved to be there for Sander and Eamonn one hundred percent in those early years. ‘Because this is the period when a child is formed and you can never do it over again.’
I often told you how fabulous you were as a mother. You just laughed and graciously accepted the compliment, but added that you ‘could have done better’. You spoke of the difficult years in Washington DC when, after the birth of Eamonn, you suffered from depressions and got through the days and nights mainly on ‘auto-pilot’.
Dear Jenn, that was the steadfast devotion you never went back on. Even in periods of weakness, you were still unbelievably strong.
I’m smiling this morning, because Eamonn woke me up with the suggestion that ‘today we should pretend that Mom is here’. So that’s what we do. Sander is on his way back from Switzerland and he’s thinking of you, too – like we do every day. But this Mother’s Day and there’s no makeshift breakfast, with flowers, cards and various other self-made gifts presented to you in bed.
The ability to cope on your own was part of your parenting principles. A mother does her work well – that goes for the father, too – if she shows her children the way and gives them a shove in the right direction. You abhorred the thought of children not being able to manage on their own. Often you hated that in me, too: the lazybones who didn’t have a clue about housekeeping, nor even, sometimes, parental chores and responsibilities. You’ve done good, girl.
And not just ‘good’. The advantage of this period is that we’re gradually more fully realizing what a fantastic mother you were, and are, and always will be. It is excruciating to think that you won’t be able to see your boys grow up, that they will grow up without the benefit of your light and your shadow, without your precious care, without that security blanket of motherly love.
In all humility, I promise you that they will grow up, thanks to your splendour. I kiss you with all the love I have for you now and will always have. I cling to your words, words that a former neighbor quoted when she wrote an anecdote for the boys in the collection Memories.
“I would not have traded my time spent raising little boys for anything. And I don’t regret it either. It has certainly informed my work now (you better believe those kids at school do not get away with much!). I truly believe my, your, anyone’s children benefit enormously from the experience as well. It is most worthwhile though often thankless.”
Your words. Your wisdom. Your love. I’m eternally grateful to you, dear Jennifer.