This post was originally posted on the Hill Tribers blog by my co-founder Caren and I asked her if I could share this with you. In addition to being a brilliant graphic designer, jewelry designer, business partner and jack (jill?)-of-all-trades, Caren is also a fantastic writer. I have cried every time I’ve read this post. I lived these hard months with Caren and it hurt so much to lose her precious mother to cancer. The world needs more women like Cheryl Frost–strong, determined, creative warriors who know how to enter the mess and love with abandon. Caren is a woman like that and she continues to amaze and bless me.
Each Mother’s Day, we celebrate and honor the women in our lives who have made us who we are. It’s a day to say a heartfelt “thanks” for all the blood, sweat, and, surely, tears poured out on our behalf by our moms. As a mother myself, I look forward to the handmade cards written by my barely literate Kindergartner, the macaroni necklace handcrafted by my preschooler and, if I’m lucky, a long nap.
But it isn’t always the easiest day to celebrate for many of us. Last year, Mother’s Day came right on the heels of losing my Mom after a short (but fierce) battle with pancreatic cancer. (My dad shares more about her life and how it connects to the Hill Triber story here.) Everything about that first Mother’s Day felt heavy. Perhaps because I was 7 months pregnant with a girl who inherited a strong dose of fierceness from my mom.
Mother’s Day is not an easy day for those of us who have lost our mothers, or for those who have struggled for years to become mothers themselves, or for those who grew up with a less than ideal mother figure. But it’s a day we choose to celebrate each year with the Hill Tribers. All of our artisans (except our lone man, Htoo, of course) are mothers or expectant mothers. How they are able to fold their work into their mothering and how Jessica and I fold our mothering into our work is a key component of why we do what we do.
Our sweet Zadie Jo was born in July and she showed her fierce nature by crying through most of her waking hours for the next 4-6 months. My husband and I zombied our way through those intense days and nights. The next fall, as I juggled the effects of losing my mom and losing my mind over my colicky baby, we began meeting with the artisans once a week to prepare for Artreach. I would bring Zadie along. She would cry. I would tear up. Without fail, Nang or Huang or Heh Ler would take the baby and pace the floor, soothing her and shushing her and giving me blessed moments of respite. One night, Nang took a turn holding her. She fought off the others (elbows may have been involved) to spend some time with my fussy little girl. When she handed Zadie back to me, she said with tears in her eyes, “Her stomach hurts.”
I cried the entire way home. From the outside, this little exchange may have seemed insignificant, but the way she cared for Zadie reminded me of the way my mother would have. That small group of women rallied around me through some of my darkest days. Their love and affection and, at times, motherly pats and advice, buoyed my spirits beyond anything I’ll be able to express. There were no casseroles, floral bouquets or Hallmark sympathy cards. But I’ll never forget the sincerity and empathy in the eyes of my friends when I needed it most.
When I left class that day, I thought, “This is what community is.” In this community, women who have experienced loss which far surpasses mine reached out to me in my grief. In this group, mothers carry babies around on backs while creating stunning work with their hands. Here, an older artisan takes extra time showing her niece the art of backstrap weaving, holding tightly to the strings of tradition she received from her mother. I’m asked from time to time how we find time to work with Hill Tribers while we raise our kids. I find myself looking back over these 6 years and wondering how I would’ve done it without them. This community of hard-working mothers teaches me how to be a better one, and I’m forever grateful to be a part of an organization that celebrates who they are and how far they’ve come.
As you take time out to honor your mother this year, let your Mother’s Day present honor another mother working hard to establish a new life for her family here in Austin. If you order products in our Etsy shop by May 5, you can use code MOMSDAY13 to save 15%. Plus, we’ll ship in time for Mother’s Day, May 12.