Once when I was fifteen, I was lying flat on my back on the hot asphalt of a road not far from my house, staring up at a blue summer sky, willing myself to not move a single muscle because I was afraid I might be paralyzed. I had no idea this moment would lead me to a powerful lesson taught to me by my mother.
It all began a few months before this event when I met my first boyfriend, who was eighteen and owned a motorcycle. I was excited to explore my new romance on the back of a Honda, free from public transit, free from parental chauffeuring, a couple of carefree teenagers on the road.
Of course, my parents had made it completely clear I was never to get on the motorcycle and I had promised I wouldn’t. So whenever my boyfriend came to pick me up he would park the bike a couple blocks away from my house and then walk to my front door.
“Okay, we’re off to the mall,” we would tell my parents as we left, “we’re taking the bus!”
We would walk two blocks, get on the bike and zoom off to wherever our hearts desired, which was usually the mall.
One day we were on the motorcycle and a car unexpectedly pulled out of a driveway and hit us. We were both thrown off the motorcycle.
I still remember the sound of my helmet hitting the road as I landed flat on my back on that hot asphalt that fine summer day.
By the time the ambulance arrived and the paramedics were putting me on a stretcher I had started to regain movement. “Okay, I’m not paralyzed,” I thought, “I’ll be fine and my parents will never have to know.”
The only problem was that at fifteen I was still a minor and the hospital wouldn’t admit me without adult consent. “I really, really don’t want to tell my parents,” I thought, “I need a way out of this.”
As crazy as it sounds, the universe gave me a way out of it. My boyfriend, who had been looked at by the doctors and cleared with only a sprained ankle, had left me with his mother and was outside the hospital waiting to be picked up by his buddy. They were going to go check on the state of the motorcycle. At that same time my older sister, who was eighteen, was waiting across the street from the hospital at a bus stop. My boyfriend hobbled over to my sister and told her what happened. She was old enough to sign for me and then arranged to get me home.
“Go have a soothing warm bath,” the nurse told me as we left the emergency room, “It’ll relax your muscles.”
A few weeks later at work, I got a phone call from my mother. “Kathy I just got off the phone with the hospital billing department. They sent us a bill for use of an ambulance. I made it absolutely clear to them if my daughter was ever in an accident and needed an ambulance, I would know about it. I let them know they made some big mistake somewhere.”
Reluctantly I ‘fessed up to my mother and she told me in her stern “you’re in deep trouble” voice to come straight home after work. The time between my mom’s call at work and the time I got home was as nerve wracking as the motorcycle accident itself.
My parents sat me down at the kitchen table and told me they were very disappointed but having had time to think about it, what concerned them most was that I didn’t call them when I was in trouble.
“There’s nothing you can can do that you should be afraid to tell us about,” they said. “There’s nothing you can do that will make us stop loving you, so it’s better we know so we can help you. That’s our job.”
Their message of genuine caring went deeper into my heart than any punishment they could have given me that day. And I’m grateful my parents took the time to reflect on what message they really wanted to give to me.
Of course, I got grounded that day too, for sure, but I don’t remember for how long or if that grounding affected my life in any big way. I also don’t know what happened to that boyfriend after we broke up at the end of the summer. What I remember most from all of it was the message my mom and dad gave me about unconditional love, I knew that when bad things happened to me, they would be there for me. That message has stayed with me my whole life long.
There is a quote I heard from Yogi Bhajan that says, “Mother is the first teacher.”
This week when I reflected on the theme of Mother’s Day for my kids yoga classes, I thought of what my mother has taught me. I created a lesson plan exploring the idea of Mother as first teacher, what a teacher does, loving unconditionally, right or wrong, naughty or nice.
Mother is the first of many teachers in our lives, she sets the stage for all the others. My mother’s lesson has informed my own quest to love unconditionally, a journey I take with myself.
The yogis also tell of the teacher within that is called Intuition. Your inner teacher conveys the lesson of unconditional love by telling you, “There’s nothing you can do that will make me stop loving you. That’s my job!”
May you enjoy the gift of Mother’s Day, the gift of the first teacher, and the gift of unconditional love.