I remember when my mom turned 40. That seemed like such an old age then. That was back in 1991. I couldn’t even imagine then that a day would come when I’d be helping her to celebrate her 60th birthday.
She’s seen a lot in those years. Only she could tell you what her eyes have seen. While my mom has shared a lot with me over the years, there’s still a part of her that remains intensely private about some things and I respect that about her.
If you had told me back then that in 20 years, my parents would be divorced, I’d be all grown up with two children of my own, and my mom would be moving in with me, I would have stared you down in disbelief. Although life for us was never what I’d consider easy, it was always stable. We just knew it would be “us four and no more”.
But isn’t that why we don’t always know what the future holds? If we knew, we wouldn’t have the faith to believe we were strong enough to get through it..
As I gather with my only sister and my children to help mama celebrate her special day, I can’t help but be reflective. I can’t help but thank God for using her to nurture and protect me. Had it not been for her watchful eye and fiercely protective nature, Lord only knows what would have become of my sister and I. Had it not been for her compassion and  tender care, my childhood illnesses would have been so much more difficult to bear. Had she not been the calm in the storm, the trials that we faced as a family would have been so much more difficult to get through.
She made a commitment the day my sister and I were born to be a mother to the end and she’s done just that.
The older we both get, our relationship is changing. I have two small children of my own to raise now. I understand now just what it takes to be a mom. If more women knew the cost, they would save their money first. I’m not saying that women shouldn’t become mothers. I’m saying they shouldn’t do so selfishly. If anything, my mother taught me the selfless side of motherhood.
She did everything a good mother should do but she went a step further. She did something that not too many women nowadays do: she actually LOVED doing it.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met in life who take care of families and loved ones and it comes off as being a burden and obligation. But not for my mama. For her, it was and still is her assignment and calling.
I asked mama if in honor of her 60th birthday if I could help her set up her very own facebook page. As far as I know, she has never used a computer outside of the one she uses at her job. She declined. lol!
Mama is my reminder of the way things used to be, when you had to actually open your mouth and talk to people, when people went to the grocery store every other day and when luxuries were appreciated, and not taken for granted. Some of my generation still remember the old Southern tradition of passing out fruit, nuts and candy at Christmas time. But my mama quickly reminds me that for her and her siblings, that was the only Christmas they got and they so looked forward to getting it.
I’m proud to have a piece of living history in my home. My mother attended segregated schools and remembers when this beautiful city I live in was littered with “Whites Only” signs in public places. She remembers when Dr. King and President JFK were assassinated, men I only know about because they were in my history books. Sixty years ago, there was no facebook, twitter or email. My mother caught a bus and flew on an airplane to go check on her sister who lived in Baltimore once. If I want to check on my sister, I can log into Skype, talk with her for free and see her eyes and know for myself if she’s ok, all from the comfort of my own home.
I think mama realizes now that although she’s lived a good life, there is never anything wrong with embracing change at any age. Sure, change comes a little bit slower for mama than for someone my age, but she’s also one of the most open minded people I know. She may not act immediately on what you say, but she always takes it to heart and gives it consideration.
Sixty years ago, my mama was born into a dirt poor family living in a two room house with an outhouse. She proudly told me once, “I was the only child of my mama’s 11 children that was born in a hospital”. Back during a time when midwives and home remedies were the only guards that stood between life and death, my mama made it into this world and has been beating the odds ever since. Despite having a father who physically abused her mother, she didn’t marry a man who physically abused her. Despite not having a high school diploma, she taught her two daughters how to read and write before they entered kindergarten. Despite going through various hardships, she’s still standing. Despite her past, she proves to the world daily that it doesn’t have to dictate your future. She taught me that your past means nothing when your God is with you.
So today, I salute my mama, Ms. Melvinia Brooks-Lewis. A true woman of God, a pioneer, a brave soul, and most importantly, a loving Mama.
When I read this to her, she’ll treat it just like every other gift I’ve ever given her. She’ll hug me, she’ll tell me “thank you”, and she’ll treasure it. Her acceptance of my gifts has made it easy to share my gift of writing with the rest of the world. She’s the first person who let me know that my voice mattered.
I can’t help but pass the gift of significance along to you too.