But we always knew.

Tonight, we celebrated.

Three kids, their spouses, and nine grandkids gathered for a party.  We celebrated the birthday of the woman who brought some of us into the world, who welcomed others of us into the family, and who was a mother to all of us.  She’ll turn 70 years young later this week.

Besides good food, a few beers, and some shenanigans with the slip-n-slide that turned my back yard into a gigantic mud puddle, there was a time for reminiscing.  We shared old pictures, took some walks down memory lane, and exchanged stories about the things we did behind our parents’ backs in our crazier younger years.

There was a lot of love crammed around that backyard table tonight.  You could feel it in the air.

But we didn’t say the words.

You see, growing up, in my family, it wasn’t something that was said.  Emotions weren’t often expressed.  Affections weren’t verbalized.  The words “I love you” were not ones we heard my mother utter very often when we were younger.

But here’s the thing.  We always knew.

We knew by the way she’d take us school shopping and always opted for the practical, yet heinously ugly Buster Browns.  She wouldn’t give in and buy us Jellies to be cool like the other kids, because she knew those cheap pieces of plastic crap would fall apart and give us blisters.  And, as we tromped home in our comfortably atrocious shoes, we knew she was right.  We also knew she wasn’t trying to make us wear hideous shoes because she wanted her kids to be fashion victims, but rather, because she loved us.  (And, possibly, because she didn’t want to hear us whine about how much our feet hurt.)

We knew by the way she’d pepper us with questions before we went anywhere.  Where are you going?  When will you be home?  Who will be there?  Who’s driving?  What’s the square root of 364? Even as teenagers, we knew why she was asking.  And we knew she asked out of love.

Some days, when my older brother and sister were at school and dad was at work, mom would make liver and onions for the two of us at home.  Most kids would wretch at the idea.  But for me, it was a special treat.  And I knew that a house that reeked of liver smell was just another way my mom said “I love you,” in her own special way.

We knew by the way she’d roust herself out of bed at 5 am every year on Black Friday to take us shopping for socks.  We knew that only two things could get my mom out of bed that early: love of a good deal, and love for her kids.

We knew because she was always at every game, tournament, competition and match.  I can recall only a few times throughout my teens that she wasn’t at an event, whether we wanted her there or not.  Sometimes she’d watch from afar.  But she was there.  And we always knew.

Sometimes it was a handwritten note slipped into a tennis racquet cover the night before a big match.  Words like “Good luck!  Do your best!  Mom and Dad” would be scribbled on a little Suzy’s Zoo sticky note.  And as I geared up to play, I knew.

Even if the words weren’t articulated often, we always knew how much our mother loved us.  A thousand tiny events, little gestures and seemingly insignificant details over the years epitomized the words that weren’t always spoken.

Now that I’m a mother myself, I can doubly appreciate the symbolism of her actions.  And I understand now what it all meant.  In reality, I always knew.

She was saying “I love you.”

We love you, too, Mom.  Happy 70th.

16 thoughts on “But we always knew.”

  1. You’re Mother sounds wonderful! Happy Birthday to her. Actions always speak louder than words and her actions definitely spoke. Now I have to go Google Buster Browns to see exactly how heinous they were. LOL

  2. And maybe because she didn’t want to hear us whine….

    THAT right there, is a good mother.

    Happy Birthday mom.

  3. Lovely. Really so well written and unsentimental. It makes me hope that my kids will think the same of me someday.

  4. Oh, I love this….our parents are turning 70 one by one, and it has really hit me now that I’m a parent how much they loved us.

    Even when I hated what they were doing.

    Because there was a reason behind it that I understand now.

  5. The downside to reading a post that makes me cry in the middle of July is that there are no freakin’ tissues. Why’d I buy those cheap papertowels – ow!

    This post was so sweet. And I can identify with the sparseness of words – my parents could never say “I love you,” with a straight face. I thought it was a curse.

  6. what a wonderful birthday tribute to your mom. I completely understand your post because that is exactly how Asian moms are. They express their love through their actions. Happy Birthday to your mom!

  7. What a sweet tribute to your mom! There are so many things our parents do for us that are so small, yet add up to let us know how much we are loved. Well said!

  8. Oh my dear friend, I have chills from your beautiful words.

    This was a gorgeous tribute to your mom- happy birthday to her.

    My fingers are crossed that my kids know, too.


    1. Galit, just from reading your blog and watching your videos, you ooze love for your kids. There is no doubt in my mind how much your kids know just how much they are loved. 🙂

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