Mom was the first person who taught me how to love. When I close my eyes, I see her hands – full and warm, covering my face. This image, from childhood I carry in me. The memory of that first intimacy she gave me.

Mom was always with me, and still is. The passing years have erased that which was irrelevant, and I am more grateful today for her simple presence.

It was with her, that I waited on Sunday afternoons for dad’s return, from helping my uncle with the harvest. It was with her, that I spent the whole holiday. It was to her classroom (Mom was a math teacher), that I went after my lessons and together we would go home. It was with her, that I used to go shopping after school and ate blueberries straight from the bush. Whatever I think about, she was there, even in later years when her presence meant her waiting until I returned.

Mom has always supported me in my choices and their consequences. As a teenage girl, I lay on the couch not once, crushed by the number of responsibilities I had taken on at school. She would just sit with me and listen. Then she would say I did not have to do it all. Although I knew I wanted to, already pushed inward by the need to reach the impossible, this very assurance brought tremendous relief and the power to act. Perhaps the words “you do not have to” gave me an unassuming assurance that I always have a place to go back to.

She was with me, when despite my having a Masters degree in Applied Mathematics, I decided to look for work in journalism, because I had realised I was more interested in people than numbers. She was with me when despite having my own apartment in Gdansk, I quit my job and left my whole world to go to Lodz and work for a foundation helping victims of human trafficking. She was also with me when I announced that I was going to India and then to Mozambique. She is, although she could choose otherwise.

I also remember my ingratitude. A messy room, throwing stuff behind a couch instead of cleaning up. The cracked glass doors caused by my slamming them, whenever I was angry. Returning home late, though I had promised I would not do so again. Taking money from her wallet to buy something I wanted. Refusing to do chores at home or at the plot, because I was much more interested in intellectual work. Screaming whenever she tried to explain some mathematical problems to me, because I wanted to solve them on my own. A whole pile of ingratitude.

And yet that was when my mother taught me how to love the most. Love which does not expect gratitude, nor return.

Mom, thank you.

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