I wanted to choose a song that reflected a mother’s love for her child, and Loving You by Minnie Riperton came to mind. While Riperton’s angelic voice is singing about an amazingly beautiful “grown-up” kind of love, her chanting of her baby daughter’s name, Maya, (for famed actress and comedienne, Maya Rudolph), at the end of the song made me feel that, like no other, incredible bond, between mother and child.
According to music lore, the song’s melody was created as a distraction for Maya so that Minnie and her husband, songwriter and music producer, Richard Rudolph, could spend time together. That makes me not feel so bad as a mother who when her daughters were babies and toddlers tried to do the same, only I could never use my singing to distract since I’m the world’s worst singer, which I used to blame my mother for, because she was a terrible singer, too.
Loving You, came out in 1975, but I remember listening to it intensely in the early 1980’s. Just entering my 20’s, I was at a low-point, letting myself be defined by a boyfriend, letting him make me feel unimportant, unworthy of positive attention, letting him make me feel that I was a bad person, unworthy of love.
One day during that time period, I sat on the floor of my apartment in Boston, my head resting on my arms atop the couch cushion, and I played Loving You, over and over again, getting up to change the needle on the record player to repeat the song. As I listened to Minnie’s otherworldly voice croon about love, and as I stared at her gorgeous, flawless face on the album cover, I decided that if there could be such beauty in the world–the beauty coming through Minnie Riperton’s soul and out into her voice, and if she could show like my mother showed to me, her love for her daughter, then there is hope in this world, too, and there is hope for me to not feel so dark inside.
We are mothers. We are human. Sometimes we want to distract our children so we can breathe for ourselves, but always we love. Minnie Riperton showed her love for her daughter Maya through song, and I am certain in many other ways. It is sad that her love and her gift of music was cut short though. Riperton died in 1979 at the age of 31 from breast cancer when Maya was only seven years old.
On September 10, 2001, I was at a fashion event in NYC (I’m not one of those people that hobnobbed in this way usually–this was a special, one-time thing that you can read more about in my post on 9/11). At the after-party I spotted Maya Rudoph in the crowd. I wanted to go up to her and tell her about how her mother saved me from my depression but I thought she’d think I was some crazed fan and maybe run the other way. Now, as I write this I think she may have appreciated my story.
Mothers are always there for us in darkness and in light. My mother lifted me out of darkness a million times–anything from a scrape on my knee, to the countless boyfriend break-ups, to coming to stay with me when I was feeling lonely when I first moved to New York City in my mid-twenties. My mother celebrated all the moments of lightness with me–from ballet recitals, to gymnastic recitals, to supporting my good relationships, to being my salesperson at the Javitz Center in NYC when I was promoting hand-painted, embellished ballet flats I created. My mother, a beautiful woman inside and out, was a gifted artist, and gave me the love of art and creativity. It is hard for me to believe that she passed away twenty-seven years ago, and I miss her dearly. Today I remember her, and her hugs. My mother gave the best hugs in the world. Today I remember that I am a mother, too, to my two beautiful, amazing daughters, Leni and Darla. I hope that I can give them the hugs throughout their lives that feel like the best hugs in the world to them, too.
Happy Mother’s Day. xo
www.youtube.com, Minnie Riperton, Loving You