I was in the fifth grade and it was a Wednesday. I know it was a Wednesday because my school only served hot lunch on two days – Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesdays brought Campbell’s vegetable soup and McDonald’s hamburgers and cheeseburgers. Soup was a quarter and burgers were fifty cents each. That particular day I forgot my money and my lunch.
I called home, but my mom wasn’t home, so I called my grandmother and asked if my mom was there. I asked if she could pass the message on to my mother.
She did one better.
I sulked most of the morning because I couldn’t get a hold of my mother which meant no lunch. However, when it was time for lunch, my name was called and there was an envelope with a quarter in it.
Apparently, my grandmother, knowing that my mom could not be reached, took it upon herself to ride three different buses to get to my school to drop off a quarter. For me.
She took a 45-minute trip each way to drop off 25 cents. Her bus fare probably cost more than my lunch, but she did that for me. It made me feel valued. Almost three decades later, I still remember receiving that quarter. It was a gesture that showed just how special my grandmother was – and how fortunate I was.
I wish my grandmother was still alive so that I could tell her just how extraordinary she is, and how special she is to me. She was the type of mom (grandmothers are like the original moms, right?) who started a Brownie troop for my mom because there weren’t any for young black girls at that time. So she put together a troop, made badges and organized outings so my mom, aunt and their friends would feel just as valued — feel as though they belonged – even at a time that society was telling them that they were restricted to certain parts of the bus, certain water fountains and specific schools. She sacrificed to make sure my mom knew she was special.
That type of specialness gets passed down.
Because of my grandmother, I had a mother who sacrificed for me. Who taught me the importance of people rather than things. Who shared her struggles and challenges growing up so I knew an adversity wasn’t unique just to me, nor was it one that was unbeatable. A mom who read to me daily, worked puzzles, and learned about baseball and basketball because I was interested in them. A mother who tolerated my interest in professional wrestling (and once EDITED a wrestling magazine I bought IN RED PEN!!!). A mother who woke me up with classical music every day, but also hit me with a blast of Motown, musicals and pop tunes. A mother who encouraged me to write and think for myself. A mother (now a proud grandmother) who has conquered Facebook, Twitter, Skype and other Internet hurdles to continue to bond and interact with her crazy son and his family.
My children are fortunate to have a mother who prioritizes their needs, their hopes, their dreams. A mom who displays respect and appreciation by sharing valued lessons and memories she learned from her mom (my mother-in-law – who is also special because SHE cared about fostering growth, creativity, and individuality in her daughter and now her grandkids).
My kids have a mom who recognizes their fears and encourages them to be mindful of them, but not to let them be limited by those fears. A mom who disciplines because she wants them to know right from wrong, and then later is on the floor with them playing and laughing because she values their imagination, creativity, and spirit. A mom who smiles and gazes at them during quiet moments when they don’t even know she is watching, but she is, and she is enthralled with all of who they are – in the tough moments, and the good ones too. A mom they can depend on for hugs, kisses, tickles, wiping of tears, laughs, and the truth. A mom who is proud to be a mom not because she is an amazing mom, but because the most rewarding part seems to be the front row seat of seeing these little children grow up and develop who they are, and what THEY want to be.
What makes moms special? I can’t answer that for every child or about every mom. However, what makes my moms in my life special is that they empower, they empathize, they embrace, they enjoy, they inspire, they protect, they encourage, they sacrifice. They are.
I’m not ashamed to say that the moms in my life helped make me a better son, man, husband, father. I’m not ashamed to say that I appreciate so many moments that may seem insignificant to others, but are priceless to me – like the sight of my kids huddled on their mother’s lap as she reads to them, or the sound of their collective belly laughs as they play. I am not ashamed to say that I appreciate the fearlessness that the moms in my life display. Most importantly, I am thankful for the impact that the moms in my life had had on my children.
A version of this first appeared on Tales From the Poop Deck.