Oftentimes, I wish I could think of just the right word; sometimes it seems to be on the tip of my tongue, but instead I stammer and stutter my way through my thought, hoping that I am getting my point across in some way.
I had such an experience with a friend who doesn’t have a very good relationship with her mother. In addition, her mother is not frum, which probably aggravates the situation even more. I was telling her how I wanted my mother’s opinion on something. I obviously couldn’t get it from my mother, so I got it from a friend instead. But really, I was longing for my mother’s input. She couldn’t understand what I needed my mother for. What was it that my mother could have offered me that friends and family couldn’t? I tried to explain what the relationship with my mother was like. I tried to explain the connection that we had. But she couldn’t get it. I stuttered and stumbled and groped and grappled for the right words to explain the unexplainable.
It then became a mission. I felt I must get that point across. What is a mother’s love? How strong can a mother-daughter connection be? The feelings are so strong. The words must be out there somewhere. But I couldn’t find them.
I didn’t give up. At the risk of the friends in my group chat thinking I had really gone nuts, I sent out a text asking if anyone could define a mother’s love. The answers weren’t long in coming: unconditional, a natural connection, love earned just because of being born, irreplaceable, love without strings attached.
Maybe it’s all true. But it is also all cliché. And I needed to explain the connection I had with my mother in real words. I needed to define that indefinable love.
And so I turned it around. I asked myself how I would describe the love I have for my children. The question almost took my breath away. The love is so deep that my heart starts to hurt. I want to protect and shield them from all pain. I just want everything to be perfect for them.
I also felt confused thinking about the question because I realized that I want perfection for them in ways that don’t even make sense. I want to hug them so tightly and never let go, but I want to teach them independence. I want to make all the right choices for them, but I want to teach them to make their own responsible decisions. I want to defend them fiercely, but I want to teach them to take responsibility. I want to teach them the fine line between self-respect and anivus. I want to teach them to care for others but not to be stepped upon. I want to nurture them with love and encourage them with positivity. I want to cultivate our values and foster our connection. My love is so absolute that it transcends logic.
I know that is how my mother felt toward me
That “transcending-logic love” made her care about all the small things in my life that no one else would care about. It made her take interest in me and my family in areas that no one else would have interest in. The love made the unimportant important to her. It made the insignificant news significant to her.
And the best friend and the closest aunt can’t replace that.
I had a gift that my friend isn’t fortunate enough to have. It is the gift of real maternal affection. Now, how can I describe this indescribable gift? How can I explain my unexplainable loss?
I went online and searched for that right word. I googled definitions but couldn’t find anything. After a long while I found a word that tugged at me. The word is ineffable. The definition is indescribable, inexpressible, beyond words, beyond description, begging description.
I have been searching and searching for that perfect word – for that word that can define what I had with my mother. And I found it! But I have come full circle. Because the word ineffable has taught me that I will not find that right word. It doesn’t exist. And simply said, that is what I had with my mother. Something that is indescribable.