Lisa Gelber
Living Life One Breath at a Time

You Gave Me Mother’s Day

When my daughter was about six years old we had the following conversation at bedtime.
Me: Z, You made me a mommy.
Z: No, I didn’t.
Me: What do you mean? You made me a mommy.
Z: Mama, you had a baby in your belly and then it went away. You were its mama.
But you gave me Mother’s Day.

You Gave Me Mother’s Day. Wow. An important reminder that the vantage point of our situation and experience makes a difference. I still maintain that Mother’s Day is every day in our home. Each day I am called to provide safety of all kinds – physical, spiritual, emotional. Each day I am called to prepare food, organize spaces for learning and eating and resting and playing. Each day I work to maintain connections with family and friends, mine and my child’s. Each day, I strive to nurture and cultivate compassion and empathy, curiosity and wisdom. Every day, I work to make space for laughter because without it I’d shrink inside.

You Gave Me Mother’s Day. Especially now, I want to say, I gave you a mother and that mother is trying the best I can to hold everything together for you and for us. I know it’s crazy to be primarily in these walls. I know you miss playing with your friends,and running up the street after dogs, and laughing with the sitter and having time and space where we are not in the same place. I know you desperately want to be at camp this summer to breathe fresh air, and splash in the pool and spend endless hours in the pinat hai/animal farm. I get it. As a mom, I am a superhero on many days, but I cannot instantaneously change the way in which the world is spinning on its axis. We have to do our part to bring the change, to reach out to others, to open our hearts to gratitude, to notice what we have and dream about what can be.

You Gave Me Mother’s Day. This year I was reminded that from my daughter’s perspective, this day is about her, a day to honor her place in our family by doing what she wants. For her, today is a day to celebrate the status of having a mommy, and a life – not celebrate the mother. It is a day to celebrate in the way one expects, whatever that is and however one can control it. I get that too, most especially during this challenging time marked by corona hair and zoom school, shul and virtually everything else. Yet, if there is one thing I’ve learned in the midst of this pandemic, it is not to tie ourselves too tightly to our material expectations. You may want me to make pizza for dinner, but there is no guarantee the store will have crust or even a delivery slot. You may want to play on that app, but with so many others home playing as you are, the app might be too overwhelmed to function as it might otherwise. You might order something on Amazon for a great project you are dreaming up and they might deliver the wrong thing. You will certainly ask for something and not receive it precisely at the time you’d like.

What we can do is hold tight to our commitment to maintain a holy life, speaking gently to one another when frustrated, covering our mouth and nose with masks when outside, checking in with family and friends to see how they are doing in this moment, bringing comfort with our presence at an on-line shiva visit. Finding room to laugh and breathe and stretch and jump. Making space for our sacred imagination to yearn and expand and reach towards the possibility of the future. In the midst of our journey from liberation to revelation, the Holy One tells us v’hithalachti b’toch’chem v’hayeetee lachem layloheem v’atem t’hiyu li l’am/ I will walk among you. I will be your Gd and you will be my people (Lev.26:12). Opening to the presence of the holy in the best of times and the most challenging of times can serve as an anchor. Finding the Divine in the every day is like a lifepreserver we did not know we needed, holding us close, keeping us steady, reminding us that we are not alone.

You Gave Me Mother’s Day says my daughter. It’s true, I know. But I’m human. And I’m doing my best. Tonight, I’ll be grateful we don’t need 6 feet between us in our house and we can snuggle before saying Sh’ma. Because after that, I have to turn into the tooth fairy.

@Rabbi Lisa Gelber
May 11, 2020 / 17 Iyar 5780

About the Author
Lisa Gelber is rabbi, mother, marathon runner, spiritual director, breast cancer survivor and PELOTON enthusiast. She leads Congregation Habonim in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of NYC. Her journey to parenthood is profiled in the Emmy nominated documentary ALL OF THE ABOVE: Single, Clergy, Mother.
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