There is a picture of my mother and I that I love. She’s about 24 and I am about 6 months old. It’s a summer day, and mom is rockin’ it in a swimsuit and a Jackie O hairstyle. I am a round, soft, baby looking at summer for the first time.
Neither of us have a clue what the next 40 years will bring. Two more little girls, days full of practices, lessons, meals, cleaning, driving, vacations, illness, pets, church, shopping, crying, teaching, praying, laughing, shouting, searching.
As a mother now, there are things Mom did for my sisters and I, that I find heroic. I think, “how did she do that?” She would coordinate meals, with a set table. The table would have all the food groups presented. “It’s important to have color,” Mom would say. The ambiance always included a lit candle or fresh flowers, and classical music in the background.
There were routines Mom set in place, patterns in the day and week that always brought order and comfort. Saturdays the house would be filled with choral worship music and the smell of Pinesol. No one cleans a floor more thoroughly than Mom. No one cleans anything more thoroughly. We’d all pitch in with our rubber gloves and buckets and clean, clean, clean.
Saturday afternoon was our turn. Long baths, blow dried hair, trimmed nails, and homemade pizza for dinner. Sunday was church, playing outside and popcorn and apples for dinner.
I cannot figure out with three kids, how Mom had time to read to me. I loved the cadence of her voice. We read “Charlotte’s Web” and cried when Charlotte died. We read “A Wrinkle in Time,” and pretended we were Margaret. We read “Little House in the Big Woods,” and fell in love with Pa.
She and I had days together when it was just a day for us. How did she manage that?! We would spend the day shopping for new shoes, clothes, getting my hair cut and going out to lunch. I realize now it was a day for me.
When adolescence beckoned we listened to tapes by James Dobson about the perils of being a teenager. Something she sorely regrets. I was well-informed and scared to death.
At night we would pray and talk about God. She was my first spiritual teacher. I always thought she had an “in” with God…I still do. I never questioned that she questioned.
Mom has always been strikingly beautiful and unintentionally funny.
When I was 4, she sat on silly putty on our shag carpet in our basement and got stuck. She had to cut a hole in her pants and in carpet to get unstuck. It’s the first time I remember laughing.
When I was ten, we were picking blueberries in Wisconsin and she stepped on an anthill. Ants ran up my Mom’s pants and she ran home and jumped in the tub. 100’s of ants drowned that day.
She would croon Joan Baez songs while my Dad played his ukulele around the campfire and my sisters and I tried to not to laugh as we listened to her singing. We were not successful.
When I was 11, I was in my first play. I was funny. I wasn’t that funny. But Mom thought I was hilarious. She started laughing uncontrollably. My Dad had to escort her from the gym.
She taught me to love public television, piano, reading, NPR, classical music, nature, justice, and beauty. She was my first friend, my greatest advocate, my fiercest defender, my biggest fan and my strongest critique.
I look at that photo now and I wonder if Mom planned to do all that she did as a Mother, or did it just come to her….like a summer day?
Happy Mothers Day.