Dear Mom: I see you.

A few months ago, I was visiting family in Florida when my uncle dug up an old home video: Christmas 1989. I was just barely a year old, my sister was four, and my parents were hosting about 15 people at our house for the holidays. Chaotic, to say the least.

We all watched the video together and laughed ourselves to tears at all the tiny things that would be so utterly boring to anyone outside the family—the way my cousin (now a very grown-up and successful adult) kept mugging for the camera and pulling goofy faces. The ridiculous high-waisted, tribal-printed pants that my aunt received as a gift. The hairstyles.

But mostly, I was watching my mom.

I watched how she showed me the ornaments on the tree and smoothed my wispy little hairs over my forehead. I listened to her discuss the details of my sleeping schedule with my grandmother. I saw her patiently help my four-year-old sister unwrap each of her presents, one by one. Even amidst the madness of playing hostess to a full house on Christmas morning, I watched her and saw in a million little ways what it means to be a mother.

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For those of us lucky enough to have wonderful, caring moms like mine, the first and only thing we know in this world is that Mom is there. Even as we grow up and become conscious of the world around us, and so many things change, Mom remains the unwavering constant—her presence is a steady, comforting given through every phase of our young lives.

And, like most things that we’ve never had to live without, we often take her presence for granted. But quietly, in the background, she is always there.

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Mom was there to shuttle me around from school to ballet class to my friend’s houses. She was there holding a homemade sign and cheering me on at volleyball games and school plays. There when I tugged on her sleeve in the middle of the night and asked, “Can I snuggle?”

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The world tells us that mothering comes naturally. That “mother” means patient, and nurturing, and selfless. But eventually, you grow up and you hear stories and you learn that not all mothers are able to live up to that role. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a mom who makes sure that you never once doubt—not even for a second—that she will be there when you need her.

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Mom, something about watching you in that old home video made me realize—that all those millions of moments, all those times when you were there—each time was a choice you made. Being my mother wasn’t one decision you made 27 years ago. Every single day of my life, you have chosen to be my mother by choosing to be there.

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I may never fully understand the myriad tiny ways you have shaped who I am, or the millions of sacrifices you have made for us. But I want you to know, especially today, that I see you. Every day I see a little more clearly all that you are, and I am even more grateful to be your daughter.

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I see you, Mom, and I love you so much. Happy Mother’s Day!

 

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