“I know it sounds crazy, but this is really important. You have less than 24 hours. Can you make it happen?”
It was my second week at my new job. I was 21, a shiny new grad anxious to please my boss. But this was insane. On the day before the grand opening of my boss’s namesake academy in south Atlanta, my boss told me I had to find a painting of a scary old woman mounted in an antique, ornate gold frame. It needed to be just the right size to fit in the space above the fireplace in the library next to the special hidden bookcase entrance to the main classroom. (Yes, this was a very special school.) There would be hundreds of people walking through the school that day, including the new students, staff, important donors and members of the media.
As Special Assistant to a public figure in the education world, I thrived on the challenge of getting seemingly impossible things done in the blink of an eye. But THIS?! WTF?! So, I did what I always did when I freaked out: I called my mom.
She told me to calm down, get my tuches in my ol’ banged up Volvo S70, and get over there asap. I pulled up to my parents’ house and ran inside to find my mom in her office, sitting in front of an easel holding a palette of fresh paint. Wearing an apron to protect her Chico’s top and denim capris, she had a look of steadfast determination. She was ready to get to work.
My mom didn’t sleep that night. At 5 am, I stood next to her, stunned and speechless, hair dryers in our hands as we dried her masterpiece as quickly as we could. As I drove the long commute to the school that morning, I was overwhelmed with pride and love for my mother. Delivering the painting to the school and seeing the expression on my boss’s face was one of the greatest moments of my entire life.
That’s my mom for you, in a nutshell. She is amazing. If I wrote a blog for every time my mom had a sleepless night over me, I’d have a novel of biblical proportions.
As talented as she is as an artist, though, she was BORN to be a mother. From the moment my mom would wake up every single morning, she’d dedicate each living second to my brother and me. During my childhood years growing up in Johns Creek, Georgia, she’d cheerfully wake up at 7am every day without fail to get us out the door for school. Smiling in her tie-dyed nightgown, she’d gently shake us awake, then head down to the kitchen to whip up our school lunches while humming happily. Each afternoon, I’d open my Lisa Frank insulated lunchbox to see a note scribbled on my napkin, reassuring me of her love (and embarrassing me in front of the cool 5th grade boys). She wrote and illustrated full, personalized storybooks just for me, reading them to me every night while she tickled my bunioned feet until I fell asleep. During my endless, brutal puberty years, she made me feel beautiful, spending hours taming my unruly Jewfro and sending me out the door telling me that the world was my oyster. (We weren’t kosher.) She was there for all the not-so-cute stuff, too. When I transferred schools because of bullying and contracted a stomach parasite abroad as a teen, she was there to clean up the tears and the puke. And, yes, she was ALWAYS cheerful. And still is. Every. Single. Day.
My mom – who is not just an artist and a mother, but also my best friend, my mentor, my therapist, and so much more – has provided me with a palette of my very own. She’s given me so many traits that have blended together to create who I am today. I am far from a masterpiece. Some might call me a piece of work. But I am who I am because of my mom, and I couldn’t be more proud.
While we think of our mothers or those that have been maternal figures to us on Mother’s Day, I hope we also see how they’ve shaped who we are and who we are (still) becoming. May we utilize whatever tools we have at our expense – whether it be our words, our actions, or our artistic skills – to show our gratitude to these amazing ladies in our life.
If my mom could paint my future, I know it would be bright. Thank you for everything, Mama. I love you!