Shira Gottfired

My Mother

Shira Gottfired

My Mother

When I was young, 

Still a believer in the power of four-leaf clovers, 

The accuracy of paper fortune tellers, 

The infinite knowledge of adults, 

When I was young, 

My mother inspired me. 

I thought I understood her. 

I knew who she was to me, 

My Ima, 

And who she was to others, 

A wife, 

A teacher, 

A rabbi, 

A friend. 

When I grew up, 

My mother stopped inspiring me. 

I learned that my parents are people too, 

Not supreme beings. 

Their flaws were on full display 

And that became the only thing I could see. 

When I grew up more, 

I began to see the parts of my mother that I didn’t know in my youth. 

Her struggles, 

Her sacrifices, 

The opportunities she turned down, 

The difficult choices she made, 

The lives she might have led. 

I learned about the relationship she ended to follow her own dream, The graduate degree she abandoned upon becoming pregnant with my older sister, The harassment she faced in rabbinical school, 

a religious sphere that accepted her publicly and rejected her behind closed doors. 

I learned about the mistakes she had made, 

The failures she still lived with, 

The expectations she held herself to. 

I am still growing, 

And I see my mother as she is. 

When I say my mother inspires me, 

It is not with the naïveté of a girl who worships the idea of adulthood. It is with the understanding of a person

Who finds herself facing the same opportunities, 

Confronting the same challenges. 

My mother is not perfect, 

But she is a supportive and caring parent, 

A loving and loved spouse, 

A dedicated and passionate educator, 

A welcoming and socially-active religious leader, 

A person who can be trusted with times of great celebration and unimaginable grief. 

My mother is not perfect, 

But she is a fighter. 

She fights for herself, 

For the people she loves, 

For the possibility of a better world. 

If that isn’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.

Shira GottfiredWriter

Shira Gottfried (she/they) is currently pursuing a Master’s in Library and Information Science at the University of Washington, after earning a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Georgia State University. She is passionate about making literature more diverse, particularly for children and young adults. In her free time, Shira enjoys reading, writing, and walking her dog. Shira can be found posting her thoughts online at, pretending to be a professional on Facebook and LinkedIn, or attempting to be hip like the kids on Twitter.


TikTok (@chasms_edge).

Photo by Jamie Howell. Courtesy of Shira Gottfired.

My Mother

Shira Gottfired