On Succos, we gather our crops, reflect on our harvest. In life, we gather our experiences, appreciate what we’ve gained
I’m not a gardener. I just look at plants and they die.
The gardener in my family was my mother a”h. She grew kohlrabi in the early 1970s, before anyone had heard of it. She threw out our garbage disposal and created a compost heap next to our house to nurture her garden (anyone missing a dog knew where to look). She also grew me. I go through life watered and nurtured by the years I had her in my life.
A memory: I was 13. She was leaving for a PTA evening at my junior high school, dressed in the usual worn-out jeans, one of her eternal-tomboy T-shirts, and beat-up sneakers.
I eyed her outfit. “Is that what you’re wearing? Why don’t you ever dress like all the other mothers?”
“Do you really want me to be like all the other mothers?” she asked,
Images of many of those other mothers raced through my mind. “No,” I admitted.
“Remember,” she told me, “you have the only mother on the block who can throw a curveball.”
I heard her message. It’s okay to not be the same as everyone else. You don’t want to be the same as everyone else. Embrace yourself and your unique gifts.
A memory: I was in tenth grade, taking German (to my grandparents’ horror). I got an A the first term, a D the next. Brought home the report card. And my mom said something I never forgot.
“If I thought that this D was the best you could do,” she told me, “then I’d have no problem with this D. But, since I know that this D is not the best you can do, I have a problem with this D.”
I don’t know if my grades improved. Probably not. But I got the message. You have potential. And it’s inexcusable if you’re not doing your best to live up to it.
A memory: When I was 17 I got my driver’s license, but still wasn’t at ease on the road.
“I don’t want you driving by yourself yet,” my mother said. “You need some more lessons.”
Indignant, as I’d just been licensed by the State of Massachusetts, I rebelled immediately.
“What do you mean?! I passed my test! That’s not fair!”
She switched tactics. Went into SuperMom mode. SuperMom mode only works if you really have a handle on the kid in question.
“Okay,” she said. “I’ll let you make the decision. If you feel like you’re ready to drive by yourself, you can. If you feel like you still need some more lessons, I’ll give you some more lessons.”
And I said — as she knew I would — “I need some more lessons.”
I got the message. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to admit you’re not ready for something. If you’re not on the same timeline as everybody else, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
I hear her in my mind all the time. I constantly discover vibrant new shoots she planted in me, which I never knew were there. They lay dormant in some unforgotten corner of me, waiting to burst through the surface and brighten my life. What my mom used to call a “life lesson” (much to the annoyance of my teenage self).
And as I tend the garden of my memories of her, and the bumper crop of her life lessons, she lives on in everlasting bloom.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 712)
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