A (Valentine's Day) Ode to my mother

By Brooke Mayer

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To the woman who tied my first ballet shoes 

In curly q perfection

And effortlessly transferred her skills to cleats

With total self-direction

When I was humbled by my toes inability to bend


And to the woman who stood by my side

As we learned my feet weren’t made for soccer either  

When an ill-calculated crossing pass 

Ended my aspiring football career 


Thank you to that woman 

My fabulous mother of three 

For graciously collecting all my tears 

And remaining calm through every injury 


And thank you for lending me your strength 

To recover from setbacks and rebuild 

Reminding me that behind every failure 

Was a lesson to be learned from and fulfilled


Thank you for pushing me to power through 

All the days that feel long and tough

But offering me a space free of judgment

When I recognize my best 

May not be good enough


And thank you for driving me to spend my life 

Being bold and living honestly

Unafraid to be myself

Amongst a world praising monotony


And I still owe you a debt of gratitude 

for convincing me to believe 

That without my name penned to it 

The spelling bee signup 

Wouldn’t be complete


And I owe you even more 

For all of the hours you spent 

Working with me to memorize

Miscellaneous and effervescent


For even now, I think of that memory so fondly  

Of when the winning certificate finally did reach my hands 

And among the audience before me 

It was just your face 

I cared to see in the stands 


And upon locking eyes with you

Your bulbs big and brown

I watched a smile take up as much space 

As your face could allow


And I still carry the joy of that moment

Where your pride was my greatest trophy 

For it far outweighed the feelings of victory

From a correct spelling of pharmacognosy


And from that day onward

Thank you for raising me to be brave 

For helping me develop an authentic voice 

And trust in every opinion I had to say 


Thank you for putting yourself last every day 

And in every situation

For always being there when I need you

To provide advice to soothe my frustrations


Thank you for teaching me 

The incredible value

Of anadultered generosity

As I grew up watching you dole out your heart 

Without ever expecting reciprocity 


And thank you for showing me the immense power in human kindness 

And leading me to understand 

The importance of being thoughtful

And the necessity of lending out my own hand


And thank you for correcting me when my behavior 

Didn’t promote acceptance or love

And reminding me that grudges 

Are items meant to be disposed of 


Thank you for the hundreds of nights 

Of cuddly bedroom snuggles 

And endless listening sessions of 

All types of school struggles 


Thank you for giving me a space to constantly 

Feel safe and secure

And arms laced in love

That have forever made me feel cared for 


Thank you for reminding me who I am 

In the moments I didn’t believe in myself

And giving me the courage 

To leave old insecurities on the shelf


Thank you for being attentive to every sniffle 

Through your old phone

As I called you from my college bedroom

Pneumonia-ridden and alone 

And thanks for having a voice so lovely

I still smile when I catch just your ringtone


You’re my loudest cheerleader

My most trusted confidant 

My favorite travel partner 

My fellow obsessor of Taziki’s restaurant 


And you seem to flout the rules of aging

Going against time and gravity 

Never losing your sense of playfulness 

And becoming more beautiful so naturally 


In fact you make me excited to grow old 

As I see the way you spend your free time

Making all others feel more special in your presence 

And spreading more joy in a day 

Than most do in a lifetime 


But beyond my basic gratitude 

For supplying my life’s blood

Thank you for imparting all of these lessons above 

For giving me the strength to fight my own battles and more

But affording me the peace of mind 

Of knowing you’d take up arms in my war 


It is you I live to imitate 

You who inspires me to shine

You I call my best friend 

And forever, 

My most important valentine