We gifted her with all her favorite goodies. Milk Duds and Whoppers at the top of the list. Closely followed by scratch-off lottery tickets, which my kids now love to do (thanks mom!)! We had much, much fun, noshing on lobster my fantastic step-dad broiled, and we sang "Happy Birthday to T" over candled-up cupcakes. It was wonderful.
"T" is her name because her real name is Cyndy and before she ever had grandchildren, her neices and nephews could only say "Tinny." Well, when I had my kids, she prayed and prayed for the day they would utter "Tinny." Day never came. All they ever said was "T" -- so now she is our precious "T"!!
Anyway, after all the gifts were opened and cupcakes eaten, after we got home, and the children were asleep, all I could think of were the amazing gifts she's given me.
First, unconditional love. Despite being a single, working mom who barely made ends meet, she poured love on me. No matter her stresses or shortcomings, regardless of any mistakes she may have made (and ALL moms make mistakes), she loved me like no other, and I never doubted that. I knew that no matter who I became or what I did, she would love me. And she still does today.
Second, she taught me loyalty. Growing up, I watched her tirelessly forge close relationships with her friends and family. If any one of them ever faced trouble, she had their back. And they had hers-- if she ever got into a bind. She taught me to fight fiercely for relationships that mattered, and she also taught me that there are appropriate times to let go.
Third, she showed me how important it is to have fun and enjoy your life. The children and I spend many weekends at her house, building fires, watching movies, playing games. She loves to get the kids from preschool and take them fun places. They are energized and super-happy after their time with her!
Fourth, she taught me you can do anything you want to do in this life. She worked hard and opened her own successful business (despite never having finished college!). No matter what life dealt her, she came up with a solution.
Mostly, what I take from her is a sense of gratitude. So much in our lives are out of our control, and no matter what happens to you, she taught me to always, always give thanks for --and choose to see-- the good that surrounds you (I think she learned this from her late father). But it's been passed to me (thank God), and I pray I pass it to my children as well. She also encouraged me not only to be thankful, but to look for the gift, the jewel, in every situation-- good or bad.
Mom-- you are my gift! I love you dearly! I hope to share many more decades with you on this earth...