My mother is always the first to call me on my birthday to remind me of the night before I was born. At the time, she was living in a one-room adobe house in Tucson, Arizona. On this late November night, she sat outside, leaning back in a deep-set wicker chair, letting her belly rest, and watching the full moon.
The white light cast a magical aura across the sagebrush and sweet-smelling mesquite and as she sat and felt my squirming—the kicking of my feet, the opening and closing of my tiny fingers—she had a premonition I would be born the next day.
Sure enough, the next afternoon, as she was watching that epic film of freedom—Gandhi—the labor pains began, and eight hours later, I was born at home in the red adobe house.
On my birthday my mother calls me to remind me what a remarkable event I was. On that day, 29 years ago, I emerged into the wide, sensory world for the first time. My face was wrinkled, my voice was loud, and my eyes were filled with wonder. I was very vulnerable.
My mother knew then that although I had come from the genes of my father and her, I was my own unique person, a small body and voice that would someday grow into a big body and voice. But all that growth into myself, all that learning and stretching could only come because on day one (and for nine months before) my mother made a commitment—an instinctual-but-by-no-means-taken-for-granted commitment—to nurture and care for me as I grew.
My mother’s commitment of care has lasted far beyond my helpless toddler years, manifesting in countless ways: the cinnamon apples that were lovingly prepared and tucked into my sister’s and my lunchboxes every day; the delight in playing basketball with me, even when I became taller than her in sixth grade; the willingness to pack up the car and whisk us away on camping adventures around the West; the enthusiastic support for the passions we choose to pursue; the always-present concern for my safety (even now as a grown man); and the open ear ready to listen and respond compassionately to any struggle I bring to her.
I’ve been lucky enough to have more than one mother in my life. My parents divorced when I was young, and at age 6, I had a stepmother come into my life who has raised me like her child from day one. Last year, I added a wonderful mother-in-law. Each mother shows her love and care for me in her own way, but what holds them together as mothers is how unconditionally they give.
Mother’s Day provides an annual reminder to be grateful for all that our mothers give to us. It is a refrain of gratitude that should be repeated every day. Mothers do not simply provide from a place of obligation, they provide from a selfless place—from the moment we popped into the world they have wanted to see us grow and fulfill the whole of our potential. I know I will never fully reciprocate all that my mothers have given me, but I can show and speak my appreciation, and try—daily—to give back as selflessly as I can.