Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

My mother just turned 86. She’d kill me for telling you that. But I’m just glad she’s still around to toss out death threats. That kind of attitude is what got her through six decades of motherhood. She certainly deserves to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Mom was born a coal-miner’s daughter in West Virginia, the youngest of six siblings. She overcame that hard-scrabble life, thanks to the strength and encouragement of her own mother, who essentially raised her kids as a “single mom” before the term became common. Mother moved to the city, became a Big Band singer, met and married a G.I., and found herself a mom at the age of 23 on the Island of Okinawa. No Lamaze class. No epidural. No birthing room. Instant Mother’s Day.

When she and her growing family moved to the Bay Area, she became a stay-at-home mom, raising her three children without the help of parenting books, TV talk show advice, or mother support groups. She had to wing it. But she quickly learned how to make flour-and-water paste for all of our craft projects, flatten a hamburger patty to the size of a pancake, create Halloween costumes out of old clothes and crepe paper, learn the words to several Beatles songs, and whip up my favorite dessert—banana pudding.

After her kids were grown, she went back to school, got a couple of bachelor degrees (art and English), moved to Chico, and taught English for a number of years. She moved on to radio, hosting her own show that featured Big Band music on the local public station. When her kids weren’t visiting and bringing along kids of their own, she painted, wrote articles for the newspaper, worked on her book, read, and played music. After my dad died, Mom slowed down a bit, moved to Sacramento to be closer to her son, and took in several grand- and great-grandchildren who needed temporary housing.

She never stopped being a mom.

When I became a mother, I was lucky to have my Mom as a role model. I learned to make flour-and-water paste (until Elmer’s glue came up with a better solution.) I flattened my hamburgers (until McDonald’s did it for me.) I created Halloween costumes from scratch (until the kids insisted on the store-bought variety.) I learned most of the words to “Ice Ice Baby” (until the kids asked me to stop singing it.) And I made their favorite food—popovers (until the kids grew sick of them and begged me put down my spatula.)

Now I see my daughter Rebecca and daughter-in-law Sue becoming wonderful mothers. They’ve read all the parenting books, gone to all the classes, joined all the groups, but when it comes down to day-today mothering, I notice they follow their instincts, just like my mom had to do. When once the pacifier had to be sterilized, now it’s acceptable to wipe it off. When once the TV was forbidden, now Mickey drops by on occasion. When once meals were chopped broccoli, now a cookie is allowed. When once their kids wore spotless clothes, the outfits are now decorated in felt markers and Mom’s lipstick.

Today we celebrate Mother’s Day, in spite of the fact that every day is really Mother’s Day. Don’t you agree?



Blogger Maddy said...

I do indeed. My mum is also 86 [and she'll never read this so I'm safe] As yet my eldest daughter has refrained from grandchildren, but it's early days yet.

May 15, 2011 at 11:48 AM  

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