Today's your 64th birthday. No, you're not losing your hair--I love the pride with which you wear your silver crown--and not much else about the song really matches, but one thing's for sure: I do still need you, now that you're 64.
I need you because we're both still raising each other, both still discovering the height and depth and breadth of our womanhood. Even though I've flown far from the small island nest of my childhood, we still are strongly linked. We are linked by our shared love and reverence for the land. We are linked by our shared linguistic silliness. We are linked by our shared hunger for beauty and our far-reaching theological curiosity.
Sometimes it's unsettling, this powerful connection. I'm not always ready to acknowledge how close we are. When I left on that plane for my first year of college in Alaska, I felt like a mustang just released from a rodeo gate, wild to bust loose from the (admittedly self-sought) burdens of The Dutiful Daughter. I longed to discover who I was apart from all others' expectations. Away in the frozen north, I spent long evenings staring up out at the snowy fields, softly illuminated by an ice-ringed moon. I wrote, sang, and--safe in my ivory tower--wept with abandon. (The freedom to sob my heart out was, oddly, my dearest new luxury after years in a five-sibling household with very thin walls.)
After the novelty wore off or the tears wore out, (I can't remember which), I lunged toward a new goal: to major in "international everything." It was a path you'd set me on, with your own voracious reading habits and deep affection for the diversity of human cultures. In letters and phone calls home, I'd relate my latest leanings and learnings. Your responses alternately impressed and irritated me; I was trying so hard to reinvent myself, trying to "compare and contrast," but you always agreed, approved, or at least understood. So much for rebellious differentiation!
As the years have unfolded, neither of us have ever managed to satiate our hunger for learning. We are both the daughters of teachers, after all. How delighted I was to watch from the sidelines (a.k.a. graduate school) as you celebrated your (mostly) empty nest by enrolling in poetry and forest stewardship classes! How much fun we still have, comparing notes from garden shows and farming workshops!
So, here I am, entirely myself, entirely my mother's daughter. You are still on the island, immersed in the business of gardening, surrounded with the fragrant fruits of your labours. You do not rest on your laurels. Your creations dazzle the senses and bedeck countless homes and businesses. They offer a benediction of beauty at rituals and events. Every year, you rework your plans, introduce something new, and push the edges of possibility. Here on this farm, I pay homage (momage?) as I echo your movements, sorting seeds and playing in the dirt.
Thank you, Mother. Thank you for your boldness, your wit, your spirit, and your stubborn dedication to being Truly Yourself. I still look to your wisdom and your witness. I still need you, now that you're sixty-four, and I am profoundly thankful for the healthy choices you've made to ensure you'll be around for many years to come. Although I suspect no child can have too many mothers,(biological, spiritual, and otherwise), you are still my Best Mama. Happy Birthday!