Mother can be used as a noun, adjective, or as a verb. Depending on how far you want to trace it, Roget’s Thesaurus will give us well over three hundred synonyms for ‘mother’. It just goes to show how important mothers are in our lives. Worthy as the Oxford English Dictionary and Mr Roget & company might be, the definitions and synonyms don’t seem to do justice to the word, do they? All the words I’ve put down up to this point, are rather clinical and cold, failing to convey the true sense of ‘Mother’.
Mother, Mama, Mom, Ma, Mommy, Mumzie come to me just off the top of my head as ways we choose to address our female parent. For each of us, the word we use to talk about or address our mother is very special and precious. It doesn’t describe anyone else’s mother; only ours. I reckon that makes a mother a pretty significant character in most of our lives.
The perception of time changes when one becomes a Mother. I’m sure that most Mothers out there would agree with that. A very wise person, probably a mother, once said, “The days are long, but the months are short.” My mother has said it to me a hundred thousand times. “Every time I turn around years have passed and my kids are no longer kids, but grown up people with families of their own.” I can’t begin to imagine how long her days were, though. Picture it. Mid-1950s through 1960s and beyond. Four boys and one girl to raise. Each of us was mischievous of course, and each of us had his own personality quirks. I often wonder how many times Mother questioned her sanity in giving birth to all of us. Even more frequently, I wonder how she’s managed to maintain her grip on sanity.
I talked to her last week and asked her to tell me some favorite memories about Mother’s Day both as a daughter and as a Mother and here’s what she sent me.
“Now, for memories. When I was expecting you I was scared to death. I had heard so many awful tales of childbirth. Then I fell and almost lost you and old Tom Van Sant accused me of trying to get rid of you. Mrs Wright was there that day and she let him have it. She told him if I wanted to do that I would have done it long before I was six months along. I had never, at that time, seen her so mad!
“I wanted a little boy the whole time and always dreamed you would be a preacher. I guess I wanted that too bad. There were several preachers in the McCarley line so I wanted one, too.
“I loved you so much and every time you moved it was exciting to both of us, especially after the fall.”
I loved reading these memories. Believe it or not, I’d never heard these. She went on to talk about her own mother.
“Now, about my Mother; there are so many. I remember when she had her first cancer when I was 6 and how we all prayed every night for her to get well.
“When I was about 10 or 12 years old I used to babysit Felton, Lance, and Peggy [*Mother’s nephews and niece] on Saturday nights. One time I had all three of them at one time and had them outside playing. Peggy snatched a toy away from Lance… and I told her several times to give it back because he was little and had the toy first. She refused to give it to him so I swatted her on the butt and made her give it to him. Well, the next day of course, she had told her parents what happened and Faye got so mad she was going to whip me. She yelled for me to come there. Mom was, as usual, sitting at the sewing machine in front of the window and yelled back at her that if she wanted to talk to me to come up there. She made that mistake and Mom let her have it. She told her that if I needed it, she would do the whipping. No one else. Boy, was Faye ever mad.
“Mom was always at the sewing machine in every spare minute. She made all our clothes from feed sacks. Every time Dad went to get cow feed he always came in and asked Mom what kind of sack she wanted and then try to match it at the store. Two bags would make me or Sonya a dress. Three would make one for her. One would make a school shirt for Buford or David. She made all our clothes except the boys’ jeans. Flour sacks were used for underwear. Believe it or not, the clothes were better made and nicer than what they had in the stores. I wish I had some feed sacks now. We even made some shirts for you older boys.”
I really like to get Mother talking about the old days. There’s a lot of entertainment value in her stories, but very frequently there’s also lesson to be learnt. One of the most important lessons we boys learned was the exact extent of her reach. I’ve seen her a thousand times, driving down the road and reaching into the back seat trying to connect with one or all of us for acting like wild monkeys. But, we also knew the exact extent of her reach when we needed some comfort. The warmth of her embrace and her soft words cooing in our ears made us realize that everything was going to be alright.
So, even though Anna Jarvis came to regret pushing to establish a day to honor our mothers, I’m glad she did it. We should honor her every day of her life, but it’s good to have this one very special day to say Happy Mother’s Day, I love you!
To all you mothers out there, young and old I wish you a beautiful day with your families.