There is nothing like a mother’s love. One can’t begin to comprehend this statement until they have experienced it themselves. It’s one thing to know that your mother loves you, it’s a given in most circumstances. She is the first one to care for you – your first security blanket. She is the one that does her best to shield you from all harm. As children, and even as adults in some situations, we can take this love for granted. When we receive something so freely without having to work for it at all, it can be easy to just assume it and all of its’ unconditional glory. But once you become a mother, once you take on this selfless role, you truly understand. You finally appreciate all of the sacrifices (that don’t really feel like sacrifices) – and the joy, and the tears, and the pride and the pain and the…….well, true love that comes from only a mother.
My mother started the journey of motherhood at a very young age. I’ve always been in awe of how much she knew about life and love considering she dove into this caretaking role right out of high school. She and my dad met at the ripe ol’ ages of 18 & 19, respectively. Within just a few months, they were married and within the year, my oldest brother was born. It’s hard for me to imagine what that must have been like. That first year after high school for me was all about partying in Cancun, traveling the country, meeting new people and living free as a bird. At the same point in her life, my mama was settling into motherhood and working as a nurse – two of the most selfless acts on the planet. Although I wasn’t that first child she nurtured, I am 100% confident she did it with the same grace and ease she still demonstrates with her own grandchildren.
Mom & Dad went on to have a second boy just 15 months after the first. Two toddlers, working hard to get by, newly married and navigating life as an adult all before the age of 21. If this doesn’t deserve the top of the respect scale, I don’t know what does. There are plenty of moms out there who get married and have children young, and my hat goes off to all who are brave enough to do it. In the case of my Mama, it was a perfect success; not a teenage tragedy. You see, my Mom didn’t drink or do drugs, or later try to take the road to self discovery by abandoning her family. No, my mom stayed the course. My mother has remained true to her purpose every step of the way. 48 years later, she still doesn’t drink or do drugs, she is still married to my father and she is still that nurturing mother to all 3 children, 9 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. She is beyond my mother, she is my hero.
I remember wanting her undivided attention all the time as a kid. I would talk endlessly hour upon hour, never once doubting if she was listening. I was a shy child; one that had a hard time looking at the waitress to order my own food in a restaurant. I didn’t (and still don’t) like to work my way into conversation. It is more common for me to listen and observe than to fight for the floor to speak. It was a different story with my Mama though. I never had to “fight for the floor”. She always gave me her ear. It was safe for me to speak freely to her. I told my Mom a lot, especially during the teenage years. I’m a sensitive soul so I feel things deeply. My Mom was always that safe person I could go to with anything bothering me. If someone hurt me, that bear in her would come out, sure – but she consistently taught me to be the bigger person. Her usual words of advice were; “you just be nice and pray for them.” Those words ring in my ears to this day every time I am hurt by someone.
My Mama has greater insight than anyone I know. She is really good at seeing situations deeper than face value. She is superb at understanding the “why” behind circumstances. I like to believe that I carry some of the same skills now as an adult. After a lifetime of one-on-one coaching from her, I’m pretty sure I picked up some golden tactics in this department.
Growing up, I was no stranger to bullying. I was small, shy and somewhat socially awkward. I lived in Santa Fe, NM and was surrounded by the rough crowd. I did not participate in teasing others or ganging up on the outcast, so in some circumstances, I became that recipient of such things. There were many days I would come home in tears – but they never lasted long because Mom would hug me in her lap, run her fingers through my hair and say things like; “They must be really unhappy to treat someone like that. Who knows what is going on in their home. I bet they could use some kindness. Just pray for them.” And just like that, my world was safe and I learned to transform anger and pain into empathy and compassion.
Mom makes the best homemade soup in the world. (Here is my shameless plug to get her to make me a pot when I’m home for Christmas this year). She will argue to no end that her soup is not as good as her mother’s soup, but I beg to differ (sorry, Grandma in Heaven, but you taught your daughter too well). My mom has such ease in the kitchen. She cooks, she sings, she doesn’t have an ounce of expectation for anyone to help her. The entire family can be sitting around watching football (myself excluded since I boycott the sport) – and she will be off in the kitchen happily preparing food for her family and guests. When all is said and done, she just as happily cleans up while everyone gets back to their merriment. I’ve never once seen or heard her complain about this arrangement.
My mother describes herself as a simple person and I love that about her. She finds delight in beautiful sunsets, pretty flowers and good books. Some of my fondest memories with her include picking pinon in the beautiful hills surrounding her hometown of Las Vegas, NM, sitting on her beloved swing in the backyard reading side by side, and…are you ready for it, brace yourself for this flashback – Jazzercise. That’s right. I loved going to Jazzercise with my Mama. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world being next to my life role model while she got her groove on to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 in her leotard and sweatbands. My mom has a musical knack – both in singing and dancing and she is still a fitness fanatic to this day. I can assuredly attribute my passions for fitness and music to my Dancing Queen mama.
If there ever was anyone who believed in me, who stood by my side through every important moment both good and bad – it is my Mother. Every try-out as a kid, she was there. Every break-up with a boyfriend, she caressed my heart. Every game I cheered at (even the Aloha Bowl in Hawaii), she was there cheering me on. Every time I moved, she helped unpack. Every time I cried, she made it better. Every time I laughed, she laughed with me. Every tantrum I threw, she loved me through. Every mistake I made, she understood and guided me to correct. There is not one time in my life, that my Mama has not been readily available to hold my hand and my heart. And now as an adult, well – I’m passed the try-outs and games, and as a happily married mother of two, I see no moves or break-ups remaining for me. But I know this for sure; she is still there for the laughs, still standing by for the adult-onset tantrums, and would drop everything to be here if I simply asked. She would do the same for my two brothers, any of our children and her siblings. Hands down, Rebecca Louise Castellano gets the gold medal for the most family-oriented person on earth. Here’s to you Mom!
Today is this beautiful woman’s birthday and she deserves to be honored. If I could, I would give her Mother a single rose to thank her for bringing this angel to us. I finally realize how deep the well of a mother’s love is. God showed me His unconditional love from the moment I was born, in the form of my mother. I am everything I am, because she loves me.
Happy Birthday Mama. You truly are the wind beneath my wings.