I love my mum. She has always been a role model to me. Having retired from the National Health Service and made aliyah, she now spends her time volunteering as a doctor for the refugee clinics in Tel Aviv.
My mum, however, is an atypical Jewish mother. Despite the thousands of miles that separate my mother from her youngest (me), my mum gets freaked out if I call more than once a week. Mum has never been one for constant contact, nor involving herself in the everyday details of her children’s lives.
This background is important to understand as I recount my first experiences with Mother's Day. Growing up in North West London, I did not pay very much attention to Mother's Day. It felt like a weird fad. My family was never big on giving presents to one another; so having an extra day to do so never came naturally.
I first became really aware of Mother's Day when I was attending university in Bristol. During my first year finals I wandered into the student union to find flowers on the desk of the receptionist with nondescript cards carefully placed across her desk. Seeing me looking at her flowers, the receptionist fixed me with a steely stare and demanded to know, “Have you sent your mother flowers for Mother's Day or are you one of those children who could not care less?”
Being a little taken aback by this enquiry of my love for my mother, I mumbled something about being Jewish and that we don’t do Mother's Day and quickly made an exit.
Having someone question my love for my mum was more than a little disconcerting so I picked up the phone and apologized to my mum for not sending her flowers. My mum’s response was classic: “What in G-ds name are you talking about?” I told her of my scolding and my sheepish defense and asked her if she felt that I appreciated her enough. After wondering if I was drunk, she told me to stop worrying, that I was a lovely son and to get back to work on my finals.
I did not really think about Mother's Day again until I moved to the United States. Mother's Day seemed to be a far bigger deal across the pond then it did back in the United Kingdom. The added benefit of Mother's Day here, however, was brunch. I like brunch as much as the next guy, so, in my new found U.S. home, I became an avid fan of Mother's Day.
Yet with my mother thousands of miles away, having brunch with my wife did not really feel like I was doing something nice for my mum. Knowing that sending her a card or flowers would make my mum believe that I had become a fully assimilated American (something that would upset her greatly), I struggled for inspiration to balance my love of Mother's Day brunch and doing something nice for my mum.
After racking my brain for some inspiration, the idea of dedicating this blog to my mum felt like the perfect way to tell her how much I appreciate her. Mum, you’re a rock star – thanks for being you.
Joel Braunold is a Bnei Akiva alumnus and a former staff member of OneVoice Europe who is currently living in Brooklyn.