Gulls by Bill Border

I grew up with a mom who was a bit of a workaholic, but also an inspiration. Over the years, my mom held official titles of instructor and teacher, writer, and director, while filling unofficial titles, such as that of academic, advocate, career counselor, and mentor.

After school, I either went to my grandmother’s house or visited my mom’s office. Over the years, my mom’s office moved around the university campus, sharing space with the university’s early efforts at diversity and inclusion. I started to learn about different cultural traditions from her peers that were Egyptian, Persian, Native American, and Chicana. My mom’s friends and co-workers spoke different languages, such as French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Chinese.

When I was three years old, she joined a team writing one of the best selling French Grammar books of all time, and over the next few years (decade?) I spent hours sitting in the corner, first coloring and later reading, writing, and listening to an all-female team plan and write their book(s).

Celebrating the world

At home, we ate typical western American fair on your average day, but from time to time, my mom served Ethiopian food that we ate with our fingers, pinching the Injera bread to scoop it up. On Easter, she made a fantastic Greek Spanakopita (spinach pie). Another friend loved to invite us over for traditional Chinese recipes from her family’s traditions.

When I was about 10 or 11, we climbed in our Subaru and drove down to Denver to make Indian food from scratch. My mom’s friend taught us with a laugh and sparkling eyes, to wrap and fold samosas, chopping onions for an unforgettable curry, telling us stories of her time India.

Growing up under my mom’s wings, I fell in love with the beauty and the diversity of our world, and since I can remember, traveling, whether through books, movies, or actual airplanes, has been a passion.

Today, I live in Madagascar, about as far from Boulder, Colorado, as you can get. My other family members have always asked me why I love to travel and wondered out loud, “why I am not just happy to stay home in beautiful, Colorful Colorado. I think my mom (and my husband) are the only people that have never questioned my travels.

Honoring Who We Are

My mom understands my need to travel, to see the world, and to be uniquely me. At the same time, as Dorthy said, “there is no place like home,” and returning to my parents’ street and their home under the Flatirons always gives me a sense of peace. And knowing that my parents are only a few days flight away has made my life overseas since 2013 workable, until now.

On March 19, 2020, the country of Madagascar shut down all internal and external flights to prevent community transmission of COVID. There have been a handful of evacuation flights to repatriate primarily French citizens, but once you leave, there is no certainty about when you might be able to return.

In April, about a week before my 43 birthday, my mom called me. She said, “the ambulance is coming for your dad; he cannot get out of bed.” With current Covid-19 restrictions, she was terrified she might not see him again, while he wasn’t ill with COVID, he is 87, and a trip to the hospital without visitation had my mom rightly disturbed.

Over the next 24-hours, my husband and I made all the paperwork and calls to get me to the capital of Antananarivo, to catch an evacuation flight being run to Addis Abba the following week. Due to various reasons, such as cost and logistics (and COVID), we decided I’d leave my kids, ages three & five, with their dad.

Right before I left, we called my mom. My dad had been in the hospital for 24-hours, and they’d had a chance to talk about me coming back to Colorado to help.

Not Leaving

My mom surprised me by insisting that I stay in Madagascar. At first, I couldn’t accept the idea, but then she said, listen, my dad died when I was 43, and you were ten years old. If your dad dies (and he may not) — you will be okay. She then reminded me of all the things that we had accomplished and lived through since my grandfather had died.

She then told me that the best place for me was with my kids and my husband. And that she and my dad wanted their legacy to be the future of my kids and family. That is love.

Once I heard my mom, once I understood her, I experienced a massive release, both of sadness and regret, but also fear and obligation. The decision to stay with my kids and be their mother was the right decision.

Mom’s understand surrender.

The love that I felt in that moment for my mom, and both my parents was immense — it still fills me with joy and satisfaction. This experience reminded me that one of the biggest lessons my mom has always taught me is that sometimes I can have a choice, and sometimes I need to surrender to the situation.

I can choose to be happy or sad. I can choose to work with a situation, or I can let it overwhelm me. Sometimes surrendering to the situation is better than fighting an unknown battle. In this situation, surrendering to the fact that I am here and my parents are there was a better choice than splitting my little family.

We are grounding our choices in our values.

The second lesson that this experience highlighted for me is my commitment to my values. When we are not sure which way to go or which choice to make, the first thing to do is to check in with what we value. My parents chose to value the well being of their grandkids, which allowed me to appreciate that my values are similarly aligned.

On Mother’s Day, I am grateful to have a mom that has shared with me the beauty of the world and her people. And also the beauty of self-awareness. It is my mom that taught me the importance of consciously living a life aligned to my values, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I love you, mom.

Painting by my father Bill Border. Used with permission. He is home from the hospital and doing well!