May 8th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #839 'My mother's eyes'

Reporter's Note: We hear a lot about first ladies, but usually not so much about the women who gave birth to our presidents. Still, this is a good day to think of them.

Dear Mr. President,

There is an old song that I often think of on Mother’s Day. It was written by the hugely underrated Tom Jans, and I suppose the most famous cover version was done by Bette Midler.

If you’ve never heard this tune, it is a lovely, plaintive song about a person saying he has his mother’s eyes. At first it sounds as if he means it merely in the colloquial sense. His eyes are blue, or green, or brown, or whatever color his mom’s eyes were. The song hints pretty strongly that she has gone on from this life.

But gradually you realize that it really means he doesn’t so much look like his mother, as he has her outlook. He sees life through the lessons she taught him. He sees how special he was to her, and yet how to the world he is just another nameless soul. He sees the bright hopes she tried to give him, and the deeper darkness of life that she was certainly wise enough to recognize, but perhaps shielded him from in his younger days.

And he sees his own shortcomings.