Mother’s Day brings a slide show of memories: the earliest with a three-month-old baby and the dual feelings of panic and delight. Then the images flash through years of young children proudly presenting gifts, from the nursery school hand print on wood to the $10 diamond necklace bought at the elementary school “boutique.” We graduated to breakfast in bed, with arguments among the children about who was going to carry the tray. The memories move at lightning speed through the action-packed springs of the teenage years. Then last year, the first without my mother, felt empty and hollow; no card or gift to carefully select. This year is overflowing with the joy brought by the first grandchild, and the pleasure of buying a card with the notation “On Your First Mother’s Day.”
My Mother’s Day message to readers needs a little context: In my graduate class this year one reading evoked an incredible response from the students, including one young man who admitted after reading the article he “bawled like a baby.”
“Making Toast” is the wrenching story of how writer Roger Rosenblatt and his wife stepped in to fill the void when their 38-year-old daughter died suddenly. Rosenblatt writes in elegant, spare prose how he and his wife overturned their life to help their widower son-in-law raise three young children.
I urge you to read the piece, now expanded into a book. My Mother’s Day message to you is found at the end of the New Yorker piece. In “Making Toast” Rosenblatt notes that during that first year he did little professional writing except for reviewing a novel “Deaf Sentence.” In the novel, the main character, Desmond, visits Auschwitz, where he finds a letter from a camp prisoner to his wife. Rosenblatt quotes the novel and then adds his own words:
One sentence rises up to Desmond: “If there have been, at various times, trifling misunderstandings in our life, now I see how one was unable to value the passing time.”
As far as I can tell, this is how to live—to value the passing time.
When I read those words “value the passing time” I wrote them down on a card and put it on my desk. Indeed words to live by as we remember the past and savor the present. Happy Mother’s Day.