To My Mom – On Her 50th Birthday

Happy Birthday to my adviser, my mentor, my counselor, my inspiration,my confidant, my anchor, my partner in crime, my love, my best friend and MY MOTHER. I cannot believe that my sweet young mother is 50 today. The big 5-0.

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Every one  always says their mom is the best mother in the world but my mom, she takes the crown of the best mother in the world ever. I don’t remember a moment in my life when my mom wasn’t there for either one of us.

She was only 19 when she met and married my dad and they both started a family. When her dream of going back to school to get her degree didn’t pan out, she graciously became a stay-at-home. It wasn’t that she didn’t have something to fallback on (she had learned every trade and handwork she could) but she decided she was going to spend her day and time caring for her children.

My mom was always there for us because my dad was mostly away at work (he was in the military and came as often as his job allowed him to) and because of that, she was both our mom and our dad. My mom understood early on (unlike most African parents of her generation) that spanking/beating wasn’t what got kids to listen and obey.

So she developed this system with us where she gave a warning the first three times we committed an offense before resulting to stringent discipline like spanking. For my sisters and I, we always adjusted by the second warning but not my brother, he got the most spanking from my mother.

We sometimes described her as having “split-personality” because one minute, she is laughing with us, telling us funny stories from her childhood or being our friend and the next, she is this stern, strict and no nonsense disciplinarian.

When I was first going away to dormitory school, my mom sat me down and tearfully pleaded that I do nothing else but study.She recanted how much she loved school and longed to finish her own education but didn’t have the opportunity and admitted how proud she was that I excelled in school, stating that she was fulfilling her educational goals through me. We both cried so hard when she dropped me off at school and she had to be escorted out of the “girls’ camp” because she wasn’t ready to leave me just yet.

She lovingly explained to me one Sunday morning when I wouldn’t stop panicking about how I had now transitioned from a “girl” to a “woman”. It was a beautiful sunny day and we both sat at the back of the house and she gave me the “lecture” about sex (very uncommon for African parents). I could tell even then, she felt very awkward discussing the topic with me but kept going.It was from mom I first knew that the fear of boys, was the beginning of wisdom (basically, a boy grazing me meant I was pregnant…lol).

She is our biggest critic and yet our biggest cheerer. She would always correct us when we faltered, always doing so lovingly; pushing us to be our best and assuring us at the same time that we were better than we gave ourselves credit for. We gave her many nicknames relating to different things and one of them was “report card”. It was an unwritten rule in our house that if you didn’t want dad knowing your business, then mom was better off not knowing either because once she knew, our dad automatically knew too.

My mom is down-to-earth, easy-going and the life of the party every where she goes. Just as we have nicknames for her at home, so do her friends.(Some call her “amstel”, don’t ask me how they came about the moniker)  She has an amazing sense of humor (I often wonder why I didn’t inherit that side of her) and incredulous one liners;she enters any room and a party ensues. My mom is so friendly that we sometimes get “jealous” of her friendship with our friends. Some fondly call her “Ma Caro”

My mom is always the first person I run to when something exciting happens to me and when things are not going well. She was reluctant to discuss my love-life when I first started dating (again, very typical of African parents) but gradually she came around and wanted to know every detail (I know, TMI to be discussing with my mom) and I obliged. Sometimes, she would offer tips “about how to treat a man”.

Everyone says I am a carbon-copy of my dad but my mom says I am totally and completely her in character. She tells me to tone down my aggressiveness towards my wants and dreams sometimes because as she says “I am going to drive men away”. She never fails to tell me how proud she is of me even when I don’t feel good about myself and never misses an opportunity to tell me she loves me.

She would fast for days and go on retreats praying for us and every time we talk on the phone, she always ends the conversation with prayers in the form of blessings. She never missed any opportunity to introduce us to her friends who mostly didn’t believe her, stating she was too young to have kids as grown as us; to which she would just laugh it off saying “if only the world had let my Merline be Merline”.

Merline is my older sister, the first born who as my mom tells us had an accident on the same day I was born. She became mentally challenged and epileptic following the accident. Many of my mom’s friends were always shocked when they came home and found she had a disabled daughter at home because she was always jovial, like everything was alright in her world.

We have watched her provide unwavering care and unconditional love to my sister and together with my dad, they have never stopped seeking help for her.

I haven’t seen my family in 7 years and I miss them all so much, but of all the things I miss, what I miss most is mom’s food. Anyone who has ever tasted my mom’s food will testify that she is “Da best cook”. My sister calls her “Master” because that is what she is, a master at her craft and once someone taste her food, they keep coming back for more.

It is hard even for me to grasp that my mom, my “sweet little mother” as I refer to her sometimes is turning 50, that she has been on this earth for half-a-century already. I called her this morning to wish her happy birthday and we spoke for over an hour and when I asked her what her wish was for her 50th, she said for God to bless her children that they live their full potential and for God to grant both her and my dad long life so they live to see our success.

My mom is a special woman, she is the pillar on which our family rests on and the glue that has kept and continues keeping us together. She is the woman behind the successful man my father is, she is the one we run to for support and protection when dad is mad at us, she is the first one to yell at us when we are wrong and the first one always encouraging and pushing us to be better.

I know that she lives her dreams vicariously through me and I am honored to be the medium that fulfills those dreams. She is not just my mother, she is my inspiration, my motivation, the reason I strive to be better and literally the reason why I am here. She chose to give me and my siblings life and even if for no other reason, we are indeed grateful and thankful.

I am proud to call you my Mother and on this day, I wish you a mighty Happy Birthday and pray that your wishes do come true. I love you mom and Happy 50th birthday.

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