WINGS: Cate Edwards on the Lessons her Mother Taught Her

Now that I’m a mother, I understand that my mom regularly doled out inhuman feats of love.
by Cate Edwards

photography courtesy the author

Every May, we celebrate mothers, to thank them and to praise them. I vividly remember our Mother’s Day brunches as a child, when our immediate family of four got dressed up and went to the fancy buffet at a Raleigh hotel.

I now know that, despite the fanfare on that one day every year, I was never appropriately grateful to Mom. She regularly doled out inhuman feats of love.

Mom meticulously created logos for each of our soccer teams and drew them, by hand, onto 15 water bottles, one for each player. She typed out lyrics to hundreds of songs in every genre to create a homemade “songbook” that we pulled out for family sing-alongs. She hand-sewed my dance costumes and stitched my ballet shoes back together when I broke them (which was often). She sat with us every night and read novels, using different voices for each character. One year, she grew grass—actual, real-life grass—onto sweatsuits, so that my brother and his friends could be a golf course for Halloween. That costume took first place at the old North Hills Mall costume contest. (Oh: and, on the “side,” she practiced law.)

At the time, I didn’t dote on her for these things, and I certainly didn’t give her the daily praise she deserved. Why would I? She made these feats of love seem altogether normal.

That, I suppose, is the thing about motherhood. No one does it to be celebrated or praised or thanked. No one does it for that one brunch in May. Over thirty years ago, my mom did all of these things for the same reason I do them now: because there is no insanity like the love that comes with being a mom. Today, I am deeply thankful for all the ways my mom demonstrated that love, that insanity.

The gratitude I feel for my mother has magnified since having my own children. Several times a day, I reach for the phone to call my mom and apologize for all I put her through. When my older son refuses to eat his pancakes because one edge is slightly burnt. When my younger son pours milk all over my car and laughs. When we go for long walks on the greenway and, inevitably, at least one of my boys wants to be carried all the way home. Pretty much every time I go to the State Fair.
Mom always said, “the best thing you can give your children is wings, because you’re not always going to be there to bring food back to the nest.” She stopped coloring our soccer team’s water bottles when we could decorate our own. She stopped mending my costumes and shoes; instead she taught me how to sew once I was old enough. When my older brother started reading, she made him read the novels aloud to us, so he always knew how to pronounce the words. She gave us wings. Of everything my mom did for me, big and small, it is for this that I am most grateful.

The value of these wings came into clearest focus when I became a mom myself. Even though Mom died five and a half years before I gave birth to my first son, I have powerfully felt her with me. When motherhood happened, I realized that—just as she had with sewing and reading—my mom had quietly given me every tool I needed. I am not doing this without her. I would not know how. She showed me how.

My mom taught me, by example, how to love my children. And I have unconsciously lifted several of her tricks: I can’t read my kids a book without using different voices for each character. And I’m anxiously waiting for my boys to be old enough to grow a golf course for Halloween. She showed me the importance of balance, of always having something of your own that you love. (That is one reason that I, too, practice law.)

Now, in May, my immediate family of four dresses up for brunch, and if all goes as planned, we get out of the house. I feel loved and celebrated, even though I’m certain my boys have no idea what Mother’s Day is. They tell me they love me, and that will always be enough. And, on the way home, we stop by Oakwood Cemetery, where I praise Mom for everything she managed to do for us. Where I thank her for giving me my mama wings.