Valentine’s Day, the annual celebration of love. While I enjoy showering all three of my boys with love, I prefer to do it everyday as opposed to one a year designated by a holiday. In general, we don’t make a big fuss and I enjoy the holiday, but since 2009, Valentine’s day has become bittersweet for me due to the loss of my greatest love, my mother, Mary Ann.
My mom was an amazing woman, friend and nurturer. She was my biggest supporter and greatest teacher. She was the woman who taught me important lift lessons like how to love and forgive, how to cook and entertain, how to sew and how to garden. An avid gardener, she spent days in the sun with her hands in the soil until the last splinter of light left the sky. She was an artist; the landscape her canvas and the flora her paint.
Mom also had an unwavering love for books fueled by her insatiable appetite for knowledge. This lent to her being an amazing writer and philosopher. She enjoyed sharing newly acquired information and the ideas spawned by the books she read with anyone who would listen. My mom was a patient listener who reserved judgement when I confided in her or sought advice. She never made decisions for me or provided answers to my dilemmas. Rather she would ask thought provoking questions to guide me in discovering solutions myself. She fostered my love of fashion in a similar way.
My mom helped me discover who I am and left me with an unending love for fashion. She introduced me to industry magazines like W, educating me in the latest styles and designers. We would share outfits we liked from Harper’s Bazaar while we sat in the nail salon. She taught me how to put outfits together observing colors, textures and proportions. I loved our back to school shopping trips, staying at the St. Francis hotel in Union Square. We would shop all day until we could barely stand, retreating to the hotel for room service and dessert. Upon returning home we always shared our purchases runway style, trying on each outfit, walking down the imaginary catwalk and posing. I miss these moments and so many more.
I wasn’t ready to let her go. She left too soon, we were both too young. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I wanted to take her places, to travel to new destinations and explore new countries. There were so many more laughs, stories, and outfits to share. She was supposed to help me navigate life’s challenges and celebrate it’s rewards. I missed her at my wedding and during my pregnancies. She was supposed to meet my babies, to hold them and tell them stories of when I was a little girl.
There are so many questions I have about her life and the beginning of mine? What San Francisco was like when she lived here? Where did she go out in the city with her friends? Where, besides Neiman Marcus, did she like to shop? Who was her first favorite designer? When did I start dressing myself? As I write this I realize these are all selfish asks to fulfill my desire to know her more intimately. I can only hope that in the end, her wish was fulfilled.
The greatest gift she ever gave me wasn’t a dress or a pair of shoes. Her greatest gift was her love. I tell myself and my siblings she waited for Valentine’s Day to pass because it was her last gesture and way of telling us how immensely we are loved. And although every Valentine’s day is a memory of her loss, I will share stories and pictures of her with my boys. I will tell them she loved me endlessly, the same way I love them.