A Legacy of Loving Mothers

It’s Mother’s Day – the time when we make a special effort to honor our mothers.  This Mother’s Day I find myself in a unique position.  I’m separated by thousands of miles from my mother, one of my children, and the father of my children who was, after all, responsible for me becoming a mother.  Yet I am able to spend Mother’s Day with my son and to join in the celebration of the dedication of his first child and to celebrate my daughter-in-law’s first Mother’s Day as a mother.  It’s like that great old Pennsylvania culinary tradition – the sweet-sour dish.   It’s a sweet time and yet I’m a little sad that I can’t be with the rest of my family.  So since I can’t be there to say “Happy Mother’s Day” in person to my mom, let me tell you a bit about the women who shaped me.

My grandmother was such a talented woman.  The firstborn in a large Dutch family, she grew up on the Midwest prairie, became a schoolteacher while in her mid-teens,  farmed, took college courses when she was in her middle years, and was the church organist. She married young and had one child, my mother, who she doted on.  From Grandma, I got my love of knitting, art, and music.

My mother (from whom I apparently inherited my ability to look not-so-great when someone snaps my picture) was an original from the moment she was born.  Her very arrival (on the morning that a crew of thrashers was due to arrive at the farm) set the tone for the rest of her life.  She would do things on HER schedule.

Mom was a farm girl who aspired to see more of the world.  When a high school beau proposed, she turned him down, even though he was considered to be a great catch.  Her main reason was that she didn’t want to end up stuck on a farm the rest of her life.  Yet she loved animals and that love grew from her life on the farm.  I inherited that love from her.  We both have such a soft spot in our hearts for dogs and cats.  I also inherited her desire to get away from home and see the world.

Mom was an only child and knew nothing about taking care of children.  But she passionately wanted children of her own.  When I came along, she was at a loss as to what to do with me.  She DID know that she loved me but the mechanics of what to do with a wiggling, crying baby where a little beyond her.  Thank goodness for my “Aunt Dorothy”, a friend of my mother who was rooming at my parents’ home when I was born.  She was from a large family and she quickly sized up the situation and took Mom under her wing.  With Aunt Dorothy’s mentoring, Mom learned parenting skills and I survived and five years later, my brother was born and thrived also.

Mom demonstrated to me how “lifelong commitment” looks in a marriage.  She was married to  one man only and loved him until the day he died.  They were complete opposites and it certainly wasn’t smooth sailing 365 days a year in their marriage.  They had their share of spats but they remained firm in their love and devotion to each other.

Other characteristics that I’ve inherited from my mother?  A wicked sense of humor, a quick temper, a love of solitude and yet an enjoyment of doing things with friends, a horror of entertaining (and yet we both have managed to find ourselves in the position of hostess quite often), perfectionism, and a lifelong love of learning.  I’m probably more neurotic than Mom but then, there is more to be neurotic about these days, eh?  Mom also dragged my brother and I to church since we were babies and made sure that we knew how important it was to have God in our lives.  I’m so glad that she did this because what a wonderful gift that was.

When my brother and I married and grandchildren arrived, Mom taught us grandparenting.  All of her grandchildren adore her.  I think the biggest thing I learned from observing Mom with her grandchildren was that sense of fun that she brought to the role.  She slipped easily back and forth between acting like a big kid herself into a more traditional grownup role.  I can’t wait to show my grandchildren some of the fun things I learned as a kid.  I only hope that I can be half as good a grandmother as my two role models.

Then it happened.  Back in the 80’s, I became a mother myself.  My daughter arrived.  I didn’t know the first thing about babies.  I hadn’t even babysat as a teen.  But I DID know that I wanted children.  Thank goodness for my mother, who arrived with my grandmother in tow.  She took one look at my crying daughter and my tear-stained face and rolled up her sleeves.  By the time she left, I was much more confident in my abilities to take care of this new little life.

Twenty months later, my son arrived.  By now, I was feeling like quite the experienced mom and so much better able to handle the challenges of two young children at home.  Yet it was a great relief to have my mother arrive to lend a helping hand.  That “team” approach has continued through the years and I have to think that both of my children have been richly blessed because their grandmother has been actively involved in their lives.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!  You’ve been a great blessing to me and to your grandchildren.  I couldn’t ask for a better mother.  I thank God for having you in my life.

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