To Mami on Mother’s Day

You know your mother did a good job at soothing and comforting when, at age 38, any time you are unwell, you still cry, “I just want my mom!” And you know you’re lucky when she’s still just a quick phone call away. Mami still has the gift of making anything better with a simple touch or word of reassurance. And though she’s in Puerto Rico and I’m in DC, I know I can still count on her to do just that.

Beautiful mother of the bride in May 2005.
My mother, Norma Ruiz de Falcón, is and always has been utterly devoted to her family. She is an undisputed hero to her three children and six grandchildren. And her children’s spouses adore her, too. I love watching the easy closeness she shares with my husband David, as well as her sincere admiration for him and how she laughs at his jokes … sometimes more than me!

Mami and David.

When I was wheeled away for an emergency c-section the day my little boy was born, she was the one who stayed strong, who comforted David and prayed with him, while also keeping worried family members in Puerto Rico informed of every detail every step of the way. (Thankfully, it was over quickly, and everyone went home healthy just a few days later!)

October of 2009, I was 4 months pregnant.
March 2010, when I became a mama, and really realized how much I need my mom.
My mom’s grandchildren know that there are always treats at her house. They know every Christmas, that one of their awesomest gifts is guaranteed to come from Abuelo and Abuela. They know she is the type of doting, adoring, indulging, silly-playful grandmother who is an easy joy to be around.
With her adoring children and grandchildren two Christmases ago. Serving one of countless holiday dinners. Getting into the spirit of silliness on a family Disney cruise (a gift from my parents to all their children and grandchildren). With my boy–one of her biggest fans.

Also, though? My mother has followed her own bliss. If she had stopped at devoted wife and mother (grandmother, sister, daughter, member of her church), I would be grateful to her, certainly. But I also would feel a sadness for her, and wouldn’t know what to make of her as an individual with dreams of her own and the need to thrive in her own right. I suspect it would be awkward to talk to her about my dreams, the ones that go beyond the realm of my own wife-and-mother identity. What earns my admiration and respect for my mother more than anything has been witnessing her pursuit of her own path and place in this world, not simply drawing her entire sense of worth from the various selfless roles she plays–very well, to be sure–in the context of her family and faith.

The logical choice for godmother of our boy? Abuela, of course!
The year before her 60th birthday, my mother earned a doctorate in theology. This, in turn, has sparked her interest as a constant seeker. Instead of becoming stagnant and entrenched in her old religious beliefs, my mother’s curiosity has increased in proportion with the growth in her scholarly achievements. And so has her openness grown. This, to me, makes my mom freaking awesome! She is present, never stuck in the past, ever-evolving, adapting, reinventing …
My mother is also assertive. The woman does not mince words, and–this is something I value very highly–is not given to platitudes in the interest of pleasantness. Ever. The last time she was in DC for a visit, her first words to me were to the effect of, “Honey, you don’t look so good.” (To provide some context, my family had been hit with a nasty stomach bug in the weeks leading up to her visit.) She will not hesitate to tell me I should buy some new clothes or replace a pair of shoes or maybe put on a little bit of makeup.

Trip to London in 2011.
With this in mind, words of admiration coming from her mean more to me than similar words from just about anyone else. Knowing my mother is honest, that she isn’t being trite when she compliments me, is one of the indescribable blessings of my life. When Mami tells me she thinks I am a good, devoted mother to my little boy, my heart swells. When she finds me funny, when she says she is in awe of my pursuit of my independent passions (and reassures me that that this pursuit doesn’t compromise my parenting), I believe her. When she said it made perfect sense to her when I started writing in earnest, because she always thought I expressed myself the way writers do, I felt simply exulted.
I am my mother’s daughter, and proud to be her baby. Whereas other parent-child relationships often become more distant after years of living apart, I am grateful for the close bond I still have with my Mami. I honor her. And I love her from such a primal and yet transcendent place inside me, that it’s a place probably only occupied by one other person, my own child. I admire and respect the many achievements and pursuits she has to her own name. I am inspired by her to follow my bliss, compelled by her example to be a tireless seeker. Finally, I need my Mama. Still. Always!
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