My mother is one of the least superficial people I know. While she could well afford to buy elegantly glass bottled fragrances from Bloomingdale’s she prefers the spray mist from Bath and Body Works. She could surely swing it in her budget to do her clothes shopping at Chico’s or J. Jill, but she prefers to buy her cotton t-shirts and capri pants at K-Mart. She could trade in or trade up luxury cars every few years if she wanted to, but instead treasures her 16-year-old VW Beetle and her ten-year-old Jeep. This kind of practicality from a woman who, while she and my Dad were building their last house, bought every single handmade vintage iron hinge, door knob, and decorative lock box (some with the original skeleton keys) from a man she found on the internet who did architectural salvage and restorations, and spent more money per door than some people spend for hardware for an entire house!!! She cares far more about the character and civility of a person than how they appear, or what qualities they project. My mom is far more impressed by your moral compass than the GPS in your Mercedes, if you get what I mean. She has known for all of her life that what we see on the outside and perceive to be true, is not necessarily relevant or reflective of what is on the inside. As a young person, this seemed meaningless to me, but now that I am grown and she is growing old, I understand how incredibly important it is to recognize the difference.
My mom is one of those women who, as Ben Harper says, has ‘diamonds on the inside.’ When I was a young teenager and began to notice things like the size of women’s engagement rings, or the way some of my friend’s mother’s expressed themselves with their clothes or handbags, or the way some women chose to show what they valued or how they chose to demonstrate it, I made a comment one day to my mother, as she was sitting at the desk in her bedroom, about how tiny her ring was…she looked down at her hand, and without missing a beat said, “there is more love behind this little ring than most women will ever know.” Boom. That’s my mom.
“She’s the best wife I ever had,” is how my dad describes her, as he grins adoringly at her and continues to see with his loving eyes the woman he fell in love with fifty years ago. Love like theirs, and a lifetime of working together as true partners with a common goal and shared values is something I will never know. Today is her birthday and she is one of those women who needs nothing and wants nothing. What makes her the happiest is to know that her loved ones are happy. So my gift today for her is to let her know that I am very happy with much of my life, and the parts that need improvement, well, I am really working hard to improve them. It’s the only gift I can give her that won’t cost me a penny.
I have rolled my eyes at things she has said, and she has sighed with annoyance at things I have said, for decades. We seldom agree on much, but the funny thing is, the older I get, the less I seem to roll my eyes and the less she seems to sigh. Things she did or said or found to be important and valuable, that used to make me feel frustrated with her, are now things that I find, at this stage of my own “mid-life,” enviable. As a young person I made great efforts to convince myself I was nothing like her, but I see more clearly now that to have been more like her would have been smart. I’m growing older and she is growing old, and while we still disagree mightily on many matters, the things that really matter, I finally have begun to understand.