What’s the best gift your mom gave you? Today’s reflection comes from Victoria Q. DeBayle, a practicing lawyer and freelance writer for The Florida Catholic. She is actively involved in her parish in Florida where she currently serves on the Leadership Team of the parish’s Young Adults Group. She’s also a big Mary fan and a wonderful email buddy. Thank you so much for sharing these memories, Victoria!
The best gift my mother gave me was presented to me wrapped in swaddling clothes on a January night in 1989. My little brother. Yes, I know my dad played a part in that too (for which he also deserves thanks), but it was mom who carried him in her womb and gave him life just four months shy of her 41st birthday. It was mom who taught us to love each other and care for each other. And mom is still the one who, when she calls either one of us, will ask, “Have you talked to your sister/brother?”
1989 was a time when having a child in your forties was not yet cool or popular or something often done by Hollywood stars. Yet my mom, in her usual, don’t-give-up-no-matter-the-odds style, made it through all of the “I can’t believe you’re having a baby at forty” comments and the warnings from doctors of the high-risks associated with having a baby at her age. She still jokes about the fact that when she would go to the doctor she would see all these women, fifteen to twenty years younger than her, complaining about everything, while she seemed unable to muster up a single complaint. Indeed, she gave birth to a happy, healthy baby boy.
The night my brother was born is one of my first memories. The thing I remember most was being in the hospital room with my mom, after the baby had been taken back to the nursery, and my mom giving me the chocolate ice cream cup the hospital had given her as dessert. I distinctly remember thinking that if baby brothers came with chocolate ice cream, being a big sister was going to be great!
Of course, it was not always great. As it turned out, having a baby brother meant that for a long time I had more decapitated Barbie dolls than capitated ones. There were fights, toy thefts, an inordinate amount of name-calling and tattle-tailing…But I also had a constant playmate; a faithful friend with whom to build the world’s greatest blanket forts and go on trail-blazing adventures with in our yard.
These days, I can’t imagine my life without him. My parents are, unfortunately, now divorced, and although it was one of those terrible situations in which you hope never to find yourself, in a lot of ways it has brought my brother and I closer together. As I like to tell my brother, divorce isn’t even an option for siblings, so we’re just stuck together no matter what. Knowing that has provided me with an amazing sense of stability under somewhat uncertain circumstances.
My mom raised two happy, healthy kids (not to mention my stepbrother and all of the other cousins and close friends who lovingly refer to her as their second mom) and while, neither of us are perfect, she truly taught us the meaning of what it is to love unconditionally. I was always the goody-two-shoes, but no matter what, I never felt mom indicate a preference for me, even when my brother’s actions seemed to come straight out of a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. She has loved us both equally and unreservedly our whole lives and, even more important, she reminds us of that every day in both word and deed. It is always easier to notice how our parents look at or love our siblings than how they look at or love ourselves (always easier to glance outward than inward), and I am so grateful to have witnessed how my mom loves my little brother, how she has taught him to love others, and to have realized, that she has done the same for me all along.
I am so thankful for the gift of my little brother, my childhood playmate, my sharer of inside jokes, and my fellow witness to mom’s unfailing love.