Harlan: Mother's Day is my day too

Today is a bittersweet day for me.

I could be across the country, celebrating my 20-year college reunion with long-lost classmates, former roommates and some of my closest friends. It's been almost a decade since I visited the venerable, ivy-covered campus, and I know being there would conjure up many fond memories of my young adulthood.

At my first significant reunion, my class's fifth, the stars didn't exactly align in my favor. We had been out of school just long enough for people to enjoy their first professional successes or personal milestones. And my fellow classmates had the business cards with august titles and sparkly engagement rings or wedding bands to prove it.

When asked about my life, I offered a less sanguine response. "Well, I just broke up with my live-in girlfriend I'd been dating for four years, I've moved into my parents' house (temporarily, of course), and after passing the bar exam I'm still looking for a job."

It sounded like something from a "Seinfeld" script. How could I not embrace the comedic and mildly ironic nature of my circumstances?

Fast forward five years, and my situation was the mirror opposite. I was married (to the woman I was dating years earlier, who actually broke up with me), we were expecting our first child, and I had my own, moderately successful environmental consulting business. Now this was the kind of narrative people expected at a reunion.

Although my life made for a nice contrast to five years earlier, I didn't dwell on the moment or consider the change to be an achievement. I knew that as much as I'd like my success to align with an arbitrary moment like a college reunion, it wasn't necessarily a measure of my worth or a barometer for my happiness. I just wanted to enjoy being around friends, reminisce and wish everyone well.

Over the last decade I've experienced plenty of ups and downs. A second child, home purchases and sales, relocations and job changes have made for a busy and full life. The future does not always follow the neat plans you envision when you're an idealistic and hopeful 21-year-old. The constantly rising trajectory we imagine our life will take is a rarity.

So where does the sweet part of today come in?

Well, it's Mother's Day, and I have the pleasure of spending it with the most important women in my life. That may sound trite, but I'm fortunate to be surrounded (although sometimes if feels like I'm cornered) by such kind, generous, independent and loving ladies.

Living in a house full of women, I have learned (albeit slowly) how to anticipate their expectations, be more sensitive to their needs and give them support. What I receive in return, as a father, husband and son is immeasurable.

Unlike a reunion, where there is often an undercurrent of competition, Mother's Day is a time to appreciate the relationships that sustain me daily. It's impossible to calculate how much my wife, mother, mother-in-law, sister, sisters-in-law and daughters have shaped me and influenced my perspective. I am especially grateful for their warmth, concern, patience and humor.

With a busy day planned — I have morning activities scheduled with my wife, a visit with her mother and sister afterward, and an afternoon trip to Los Angeles to be with my entire family — I am determined to be attentive and simply enjoy the moment.

And while my thoughts may occasionally wander to memories of college, I'm thankful to be able to celebrate today with family. There really is no place like home.

Happy Mothers Day!

JEFFREY HARLAN is an urban planner who lives on the Eastside of Costa Mesa.

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