Mother’s Day will be celebrated on May 10 this year. On this day, people celebrate motherhood and mothers in their families. We mothers are remembered and pampered and we simply love it. Mothers are thanked profusely for their efforts, sacrifices and children make this a special day for the mothers. Our children send us handmade or store bought gifts, flower bouquets, and take us to lunch or dinner to celebrate the special day. A lot of adult children like mine fly home as the day is treated as some sort of redemption because of all the missed phone calls, unanswered emails as they get busy living their lives. This has always been the case with my daughter Noor ever since she graduated from college.

This Mother’s Day will be unlike any other because of coronavirus lockdown and social distancing. Mother’s Day will be hard to celebrate but somehow everyone will find a way to celebrate their mothers. Coronavirus has disrupted air travel and because of the slowdown in air travel, people in general have sought to stay put this Mother’s Day. Most US states have shelter-in-place order issued by state governments. No one is sure if it is safe to visit mom on her special day. Therefore, sons and daughters that live far away from their mothers are making a simple choice this Sunday – video chat, phone call, or send a gift through mail with a card. A visit simply is not worth taking a huge risk as no one wants to expose mom to coronavirus, a ghastly little thing that is ravaging the world. Of course, the flower shops across the country had opened up last week, and they are busy filling in orders and making beautiful bouquets. This year Noor would probably be using Zoom that will last for about 40 minutes – as I am using the free version. Getting gifts are great but an uninterrupted one-to-one chat is going to be the best comforting gift idea.

There was another exception on Mother’s Day in 2015 that I recall when Noor could not come home because she had to meet a deadline by the following day. She was feeling worse than me as she could not be with me to celebrate. On the eve of Mother’s Day, she had called to tell me that she cannot bear to think of the distance on Mother’s Day, and is looking to book a ticket in the morning as she wants to spend the day with me no matter what. She was scheduling to take an evening flight back to Boston. But I dissuaded her from doing so as it would be too hectic when she is facing a deadline with her publisher. Instead I had encouraged her to write a few things about the way she sees me and I told her that I would find it very uplifting. I was also curious to see how she portrays me and said I would rather have that memento of love than her taking the trouble of coming home only for a few hours. Reluctantly she agreed to give it a try. The next morning when I opened my mailbox, I was thrilled to find out her piece that she had written in honor of Mother’s Day. This was given to me out of unadulterated love. The simple but an honest piece of writing in describing me has been one of the most cherished gifts that I had gotten from her. It was written in a way that I don’t have any qualms in sharing her thoughts with all the mothers and their daughters on this Mother’s Day.

When I describe my mother, my mom, to other people, I usually say that I cannot imagine her as separate from me. I’m surprised that I still say this, because I am an adult, and I have a healthy sense of self.

I know who I am. My mom and I: We express ourselves differently. We have different goals. We were raised differently. We don’t always see eye to eye.

And yet, when I think in depth about her (and because she is far away from me, this act is all I have at times), I have immense difficulty thinking of her as a different human being. I think of us as the same person.

We are so enmeshed. I feel like she is a part of my body. I am not sure how I will make it without her. To this day, she continues to guide me, soothe me, giving her time, her energy, her support, through all the thorny times in my life.

From the day I was born, my mom has gone above and beyond for me. She was always intensely engaged. She was present and curious and committed. She made sure I had what I needed to do my best.

From her, I learned the joy of pushing my abilities to their limits. I remember late nights with her when I was in third grade, thumbing through tchotchkes at a crafts shop, so I could build a diorama of a Conestoga wagon.

I remember her waiting patiently on weekends at a university library, where I would read articles and print pictures of Egyptian pharaohs for a social studies poster (that, in retrospect, probably didn’t need so much time invested in it).

Without a brilliant mother, I don’t know if I would have the curiosity and drive that I do now. Only as I grow older do I understand what she hoped for me. She wanted a daughter who set her horizons far and high. She sent me on every class trip — to Italy, to Japan, to Spain, to France — because she wanted me to see the world.

She encouraged me to take piano, to paint, and draw and write. She loved, and loves, the arts, and she wanted me to be cultured and sensitive and brave. She read widely, as she was an English major and a lover of great novels, poetry, and music. Without even realizing the echoes and parallels in our stories, I followed in her path, finding a love of the same in my life.

People tell me stories of how she dressed me meticulously, and spent countless hours making sure I looked and felt good about my little self. She’ll call me, now, with her memories of hunting for a certain dress or jacket or pair of shoes. She’ll ask me: “I had to go to three (four, five) places to find them; do you remember?” I say that I do, even if I don’t.

She’s not really talking about the dress, or jacket, or the pair of shoes. The memory she’s relating, for me, isn’t about the clothing; it is about the caring, the hope, and the desires she had for me, wrapped up in the search for a certain item. That search represents how she wanted me to respect myself, to seek dignity and peace and fulfillment.

As I write this, I’m looking through a small blue photo album from the ‘90s, with thick matte photos stuck permanently under plastic protector pages. There are pictures of us outside our old home, and at an amusement park, and on my 4th, 5th, and 6th birthdays.

One of my favorite pictures is of the two of us on a bench, having a picnic beside a river, after touring Mount Vernon. She had an orange backpack from her college days that she continued to carry when we’d go on these trips.

Looking at these pictures can hurt, not in the sense of acute pain, but more like a dull ache. My mom has made so many unimaginable, colossal sacrifices for me that I feel overwhelmed trying to articulate them to you.

And if I feel this ache thinking of her, I can’t know what she feels, what a mother feels, how she has her heart so tethered to someone out in the world, always, in the most profound, unshakable way. No matter the depth of my feelings for my mom, I know that she will always feel more for me.

I hope I can honor all the dreams she had and continues to have for me, by being the best, most committed, loyal, and driven person I possibly can be. I try to honor my talent, in honor of her. I hope to be present for her when she needs me, in the way that she has always been for me. I hope that gift is enough.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers!

Zeenat Khan writes from Maryland, USA


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