My daughter called me the other day to say she had come to a shocking realization. She found herself responding to a situation “just like mom.” I like to think that meant responsibly, orderly, and thoughtfully—traits sometimes referred to as anal by children in the throes of independence who believe they are plowing swaths through snow clogged highways. Highways their parents must never have traveled.
The thing is, when she told me how she had responded, she was proud—as though marveling at the discovery that what she had previously regarded as Mom harpings now made perfect sense.
Ah, thank you, Lord. I knew we would get to this point one day. For some of us that new found mom appreciation is a while in coming. Especially if your daughter is a lot more like you than she realized. I look forward to being able to share some mom stuff with her now—woman to woman.
The same week my daughter realized she acted “just like mom,” my sister sent me a birthday card (this year a lovely one instead of a snarky Maxine one reminding me of the perils of old age). In her note, my sister wrote, “You’ve picked up many of Mom’s qualities.”
If so, I am a proud of that.
Unfortunately, I too was older before I appreciated what my mother taught me. Sometimes we teased that she was “ditzy,” something I realized late in life was far from the truth.
Mom never made excuses for opportunities she didn’t have, but found ways to accomplish much with what she did have. Although she didn’t graduate from high school, she bought us every set of books the door-to-to peddlers had to offer, from encyclopedias, to set of science and literature. She not only inspired a love of learning in us, but she gave herself an education to rival many.
By example, she taught me faith and loyalty and perseverance, things I’ve written about before.
And one of the loveliest things about her was that she found beauty where none was apparent. Our house, though sufficient, was worse for wear. For as long as I remember, a part of the ceiling in my bedroom was missing –fell off during a hurricane one year. Household appliances were often more work than worth. (For years we took turns sitting on the washing machine during the spin cycle, an act I credit to keeping my butt from taking on the Chadwick spread. And the five of us kids contributed more chaos than the three-roomed downstairs could contain or a weary mom could maintain.
But Mom knew where to find the first tiny mayflowers, the elusive jack-in-the-pulpit and the brook trout in the river across the field. Whenever I see a violet on the side of the road I think of Mom’s love for beauty in the midst of disorder.
Later in life, she taught herself to paint and all that locked up beauty came out in tiny brush strokes. And like so many women who have nothing but some cloth and thread or ball of yarn, she learned to spin beauty.
Just before she died I asked her to teach me to crochet. We’d sit on the couch, side by side, and she’d wrap the yarn around her finger, and I would try to copy, but not even get the gist of a slip knot, so we’d start again. And I’d master a chain, then turn and go back.
“Skip the first single crochet,” she’d say.
“Which one is the first?” I’d ask, a question that seems so ridiculously stupid until you try to figure it out—hint— not the first chain.
Well, that cancer inched through her brain before I figured it out. But Mom taught me perseverance, so I pulled a ball out from her tidy unfinished projects bag and make a slip knot, then chained thirty and turned and single crocheted back across the row. All the while remembering her there by my side.
The only problem is I still haven’t figured out where the end and beginning stitches are, so, my pot holders have a peculiar resemblance to the shape of the United States.
Well, there may be some things we never end up doing “just like Mom.”
Through snow storms, ice storms, unpheaved plans, give thanks, find beauty and persevere.