To the Editor:
It was 1983 and the West Tisbury School had their annual International Day where each grade would study a culture across the world and present their culture in the school gym, including specific attire, music and cuisine. This was indeed the most magnificent experience for me, a 5-year old who had only lived in the woods. Our country was Japan, we studied, created kimonos to wear, learned a song called Sakura which is a tribute to cherry blossoms opening. This morning my kids gave me a mason jar of cherry blossoms, and it was more than a gesture-it created an emotional string for me to piece together what Mother’s Day is about.
After international day, for the next year, my mom would ask me to sing the high noted Sakura song repeatedly at any time, in the car, at night after dinner, in front of family members, friends, strangers we just met. She’d say, “come on April, it is so beautiful.” I grew to resent the song, it’s high pitched melody, the attention it got me, and the look of adoration on her face when I hit the first note.
For years after it was our joke, through my 20s, 30s I’d randomly start singing it and we would burst into laughter. We grew together over the years, our relationship evolved, strengthened, but her unconditional adoration never wavered. Her love is what I miss the most, the moments we both knew that generated delight at our collective absurdity. She was my closest and dearest confidant. My greatest teacher and partner in mischief. As she was dying, I sang that song to her, the attending doctor was doing rounds with a group of residents and watched me through the glass door with tears streaming down my face belting out a high-pitched version of Sakura.
Although she wasn’t looking at me in adoration, I could sense she was in a state of joy that I was performing the song for her. My longing for her friendship and love is profoundly deep and painful on this day. But, as I look at the cherry blossoms that my children gave me this morning, I’m reminded that my children feel that with me, and I have an important role in their lives. I am the unconditional adorer, the one who knows their story, can teach them what joy feels like, and what a connection stronger than circumstance resembles. So, if you are sad, joyful, grateful, resentful, or a mix of many feelings today — go easy on yourself. Mother’s Day is not about giving birth it is about that person in your life, mother or not that has helped you through complex emotional landscapes, your person that has always gotten it right or rarely gotten it right. It is a tribute to those instrumental in your journey, you’re learning, and fostered your ability to meet your potential because they see you as the best version of yourself every day.