Some of you reading this might have childhood memories of Mother’s Day brunch. Maybe there were pastel colors. Maybe there were doilies. Since I was about 10 years old, my Mother’s Day tradition has been to do nothing at all. Mom has never been around. For the last 25 years, my mom has run the flower shop in my family’s central New Jersey supermarket and that means that Mother’s Day is a workday. Every year, my mom, a dedicated worker, wakes up early on the second Sunday in May.
When I hit working age, I went to work with my mother. I would sweep the floors, run the register, and do anything else that required an extra hand. When I got to be of driving age, I spent Mother’s Day like a character in a Bruce Springsteen song, shuffling and careening through the streets of New Jersey, delivering flowers to nursing homes, retirement communities, and grateful mothers separated by distance from their children.
Memories of those Mother’s Days are still vivid. I can smell the fresh cut flowers, the chill of the walk-in refrigerator that kept all the arrangements fresh and the sound of tipping vases in the back of the delivery van as I took a very hard right turn trying not to miss the recipient’s street. But, more than that, I can recall starting to truly understand my mom, not as a caretaker, a dinner maker, or a doer of things for me, but as a hard-working woman. Work ethic was always a point of pride in my family and mom had it. She focused on the details and put in the time.
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My mother cared about Mother’s Day more because she did her job with care than because she expected to be celebrated. The successes she had were a product of her concentration and diligence.
My wife — and I’m sure this is not a coincidence — has always shown the same work ethic. Since the day she began her career, she’s been incredibly tenacious and approached her job with a sense of clear purpose. For her, it’s all about getting the job done right. I admire the hell out of it. This is no doubt why my 2-year-old daughter is so self-possessed. She’s got women to look up to. She’s not working yet (child labor laws and all), but she is already fiercely independent and will do what it takes to get it right. She practices putting on her coat and making her own breakfast. Good things are coming.
When I think about Mother’s Day now, being a dad, I think not only about the flowers, but about the example the women in my life are setting for my daughter and how incredibly thankful I am to be surrounded by hard-nosed moms. The holiday isn’t just about moms receiving roses, it’s about what they put out in the world. It’s about how they teach us and our children to deliver.