*This post has been updated after publication because one of the gift ideas I had featured was not yet available online!
When I am visiting my parents’ home, my mother will turn down the bed linens for me at night. This means that at some point in the evening, when I am pouring myself a glass of wine or rifling through her pantry, she will have wordlessly gone into the guest bedroom, tucked down the comforter, and fluffed the pillow on my behalf.
She will stock the fridge with LaCroix and oat milk and the pantry with Crispix and Cheez-Its — all my favorite things.
She will clip out recipes or articles or prayers and leave them for me on the desk of the guest room, my name written in her old-fashioned script at the top: Jennifer. No preamble, no commentary, no marginalia. Just the implied: I thought of you when I read this. And, just beyond that, the implied: I love you.
She will unfurl a gift for whatever occasion is upon us — Thanksgiving, Easter, Daughter’s Day, The First Day of Summer (I swear she invents new holidays for the excuse of gift-giving) — “I saw this and thought you,” she’ll say.
She will plan out an itinerary of meals deferential to my preferences: scallops from Black Salt one night; an Ina Garten chicken dish I love the next.
She will wait until I descend for breakfast before having her own, always first asking how I slept–just about the tenderest of inquiries, in my opinion. As if anyone should care how I slept.
And she will stand at the top of the steps waiting for me when she hears the front door open: “There’s my girl,” she will say, opening her arms as I ascend.
When I am weary, lost in the footslog of caring for two small children while confined for the foreseeable future in our Manhattan apartment, I think about the quiet, largely thankless way in which she cares for me, both when I am visiting her and when I am not.
But it is tenderer to think of visiting her because I cannot right now and — oh my God, I miss her.
All this to say: my mother cares for me instinctively, as though she cannot imagine another way of living her life. On the occasion I have the presence of mind to thank her, she is often startled: “Oh, what? Oh — sure, of course!” Her selflessness humbles me as I occasionally grumble and whine my way through these long days:
A basket of fresh fruit arriving on my doorstep just after I had complained about how little produce we had on hand.
Daily phone calls or FaceTime sessions.
Packages ferrying puzzles and toys for the children that have sustained us through many a bleary afternoon.
Hand-written notes to cheer me along.
Postcards addressed to mini — invariably the highlight of her day.
All of this from my mother. I am inspired and spirited by her example as I look after my own children, but I cannot deny that I also crave her care, even now, on the eve of 36 years old (!). It is lucky, as I wrote elsewhere, to be children.
Today, wishing my mother an extra happy mother’s day–
I am lucky I am yours and you are mine.