As another Mother’s Day passes, I pause to think of my absent mother, or Ma as I call her in my memoir, My (Part-Time) Paris Life. We lost her in early February 2011 to breast cancer, transforming Mother’s Day into a day of remembrance. This is the seventh Mother’s Day without her.
When my mother was alive, every Mother’s Day weekend I would take the train from New York to see her, and we would plant flowers in her flowerpots for the summer season, then I’d take her to brunch somewhere special in a nearby town. Every year the same. We were big on traditions in our family when Ma was alive. The things you can count on keep you feeling safe, and loved.
The summer before Ma died, those plants bloomed bigger and more glorious than ever, as if they knew it was the last time they’d grace her back patio.
Ma was the center of my world; we did everything together. She was my best friend. And when she died I was completely lost. I realized I hadn’t built a life on my own terms. I didn’t know who I was without her. Those of you who have followed this blog, or read my memoir, know that I ultimately found myself, my purpose, in Paris. There I made what felt like a reckless apartment purchase, but it led to a changed life—a bolder, more fulfilled life. I realize now that it was Ma who prepared me for this journey. She left me with the will and the courage to not only carry on after she was gone, but to thrive and prosper.
Sigma Tau Eta was my mother’s sorority when she was in high school. It stood for “Seek the Highest.” And our mother did teach us this in so many ways, from pushing us to do our best in school, to bringing culture into our lives. And when I was 16, she insisted I go to Paris with my high school French class. The trip was expensive for my parents, but Ma made sure they found a way to send me because, as she said, “Someone from this family should see Europe.” That trip informed my esthetic, opened me up to a greater world, and ultimately set me on a path that led me where I am now. Thank you, Ma.
Seek the highest. That’s the legacy Lillian Anselmo left her daughters. And it’s my message for you today. Your mother gave you life so that you should live it to the fullest. Be your greatest self. It’s the best tribute you can give your mother. I may never plant my mother’s flowers again for her, but I can, and will, continue to nurture myself and flourish like those flowers did.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.
My memoir, My (Part-Time) Paris Life, is dedicated to my mother, and tells the story of a mother and daughter, and how I found purpose after her death in Paris. You can find the memoir here.