“Mothers are insane” is a common refrain in our house. Not usually because of our own mothers, but because of Joanna’s feelings and resulting behavior regarding her own three “children.” The kids are all grown, but were part of Joanna long before I arrived. And when I came along, part of why we succeeded as a couple was because we all — kids and adults — knew that her love for me would never diminish her love for them.

A 1995 Susan Sarandon movie pretty well describes the whole mother-grizzly instinct, as described in a New York Times review of the time: “It seems that when a woman has a child, the mother part of her becomes like a grow-toy, one of those creatures you put in water that expand to 300 times its size, and this ‘monster mother’ part takes over.”

And of course ANY action by a woman’s offspring that acknowledges mom’s importance is an immediate balm for virtually any hurt caused. So when her then-college-age daughter sent her a tape of this Natalie Merchant song (sometimes called “Thank You”), Joanna played it until it was nearly worn out. On the rare occasions the song pops up on the radio, it immediately transports her somewhere else, somewhere that sometimes inspires the kind of glistening eyes that only a child can produce from a mother. Thanks, Kathy, Gary and Grace, for sharing your mother with me and letting me be a part of your lives.

Lyrics here, with a video version from the 2010 TED conference below: