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One day last week, in a funk for reasons I cannot remember, I ran short on time as I prepared to leave my house for work. I threw on clothes and grabbed some shoes; quickly fastened my watch and pushed my rings onto my fingers. I thought about the busy day I had ahead, the fact that I’d not had time for coffee, whether or not I needed a jacket, and if I’d successfully rubbed out a stain from the dress I’d chosen.

As I raced around, I caught a glimpse of a necklace my mom gave me when I moved to California. It’s a silver necklace, with a simple “xo” in its center. She sent it to me with a note saying how proud she was of me for taking a bold step in my life. The note sits on a bookshelf next to my desk, and the necklace hangs in a special spot in my bathroom.

Slowing down, I reached out for it, and fastened it around my neck.

My maternal grandmother, long before I came along.

My maternal grandmother, long before I came along.

Not being a mother myself – which, in my late 30s, still surprises me – I can’t fully speak to the dedication, exhaustion, or experimentation it takes. But as a counselor and as a daughter, I understand the value of good mothering. I am one of the luckiest ones, to have a mom who has shown me endless, wide, expansive love. That’s a gift beyond measure; I don’t know if most people understand the importance of that, and how much can be forgiven if that is the foundation. The truth is that I was given an invaluable advantage in life, because of my mom.

At my age, of course, I am surrounded by moms. They’re my friends, most of whom I knew long before they had children, and watching them take on this additional role is a joy, and a constant lesson for me, sitting on the sidelines. From my college roommate, who was the first one to take the plunge; to the friend who welcomed me at her daughters’ births (and to her sister-in-law, who delivered so quickly that I couldn’t get there in time for her son’s arrival); to my best friends from high school, who have brought a total of six little ones into the world; to my own sister, who has so recently gone through this transformation; and to so many others, I’m surrounded by women who show me, all the time, what it means to love that deeply. It is an honor, and if ever I join their ranks, I know I will be better prepared because of them.

The tradition of Mother’s Day serves to remind us to show gratitude to the woman who raised us, or to the women, or to the men, who have stepped in throughout our lives to help support and guide us. We send flowers, make breakfasts, say thank you. It’s a start, but it will never be enough; we cannot equal what we who have been mothered have been given.

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My paternal grandmother, with my grandfather, on their wedding day.

I put on the necklace the other day, in part because when I’m wearing it, I have to honor the spirit of my mother’s love that has shaped me in so many ways. The thing that I see in my baby nephew – that impossible beauty that is absolutely, thoroughly real – is what my mom sees in me still (which, with all the bumps I’ve encountered, is kind of amazing). I’m not going to disrespect that. Carrying that tangible reminder of all that she continues to give me – even at my age – makes me better able to handle whatever comes my way with a bit more grace and strength. In remembering her faith in me, I am slightly more gentle, kind, and forgiving towards myself.

Today, and every day, I stand in awe of my mom, and I bow in appreciation to all the mothers out there, who walk through their days with the courage to love without reservation. You are amazing, brave, and an inspiration. And I’m fairly confident that if you can do this whole mothering thing – well, hell. I think you can do pretty much anything. Happy Mother’s Day to you!

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