My mother brought the stars to me to nourish my dreams

The swirl of Mother’s Day, Teacher Appreciation Week and news of two teachers who, rather than living on as the educators they were born to be, are now martyrs in yet another senseless case of rogue gun violence, had me returning to one of my favorite memories of my mother, a teacher, and me. It represents some of the greatest things parents can do for their children — encourage their dreams, show them what’s possible, set beliefs aside to make their children happy and show them the magic that’s waiting for them right outside their door.

I was sure I’d be an astronaut from age 3 to 8. I dreamed of visiting the moon, landing on Mars and maybe even conquering the uninhabitable gas planet Jupiter (again, I was 8) in a spacesuit with my name on it. Despite being a science teacher, my mom was always a bit unimpressed with the space part of earth space science. “You don’t know what’s up there,” she’d often say with exasperation before launching into a speech about the many virtues of soil, rocks, the Coriolis effect and other phenomena that I honestly tuned out when I took earth space science in eighth grade. (Sorry, Mom.) But her lack of enthusiasm for space didn’t stop her from taking me on trips to the planetarium at the Museum of Science in Miami where I grew up, buying me more books about space and the sky than I needed, and taking the first opportunity to show me the magic of the skies up close.

My dates are fuzzy, but I believe this happened during the peak of the Leonid meteor shower in 2001 when I was in elementary school. My mom asked if I’d like to see it. Late one night, she woke me up, smiling, and took me downstairs to the window of our small townhouse, where I got to see meteors, shooting stars and flaming balls of light darting across the sky at a rate of more than 1,000 every 15 minutes.

I’ll never forget seeing those bright streaks of light shoot across the sky and how afraid I was to actually go outside at first because I thought a meteor might hit me in the head — or how glad I was when I finally stepped outside to see the shower in all of its celestial glory. More importantly, I’ll never forget how excited my mother was for me to see this rare storm-level display. She never stopped encouraging my wonder at what’s above, even if her preference was for the certainty found on earth.

Similar to what many mothers and daughters experience, my adolescent years and early 20s saw us at odds and arguing more often than not. Today, I regret that I held onto hurts longer than I should have, and continue to struggle to live in the present with a mother who has never stopped loving and cheering for me — even when I messed up.

We often spend more time on the tangible things our parents, teachers and leaders do for us — food in our bellies, nice clothes on our backs, and a pep talk here and there. But we must also remember the more immaterial — the grace we’re shown when we fall short, the affection that washes away our tears and the worry that never seems to end. Today, I’m thankful to have shared that night (along with many others) with my mom. It’s one I often revisit when I need to smile or simply to be reminded of the true depth of my mother’s love. (A reminder, I admit, I don’t need.)

As children, we tend to think our parents have to love us, that the adage, “Love is a choice,” doesn’t apply to those who birthed us or chose to raise us. But this night was a microcosm of the choices mothers make in love. The choice to lose out on an hour of sleep, to be pumped about something your child loves — even when it’s not your cup of tea — the choice to tilt a young face upward and to see the power of nature in action.

So many parents passively support their children’s dreams, happy when they are interested in something but not as game to immerse themselves in what their kids love. I’m fortunate to be able to celebrate the woman who loved and provided for me — and who also wasn’t content to just tell me to reach for the stars. She decided instead to find a way to let me see the stars for myself.

So today and everyday, I am thankful to my mother, to all mothers — natural, chosen or otherwise — to teachers, and to the true mentors we encounter in life, for the choices they make in love, to do all they can to see their children’s wildest dreams come true.

Jorie Goins is a content editor who works with the Tribune Editorial Board.

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