To say this is a big month for me is to call Everest a molehill. My first born will graduate college and my last born will bid adieu to high school.
I’m fine, really…. Introspective. Contemplative. Prayer-filled. But good.
This season has me missing my parents something awful, wishing so badly they were here to celebrate with us. Daddy at least got to meet and spend time with his grands; but maybe because Mother’s Day is coming up, I’m lamenting not having more time with Mama. If given three wishes, my first would be to have time with my her, to talk as adults and friends and for Mama to meet my babies and husband.
To honor her memory and celebrate her legacy, today I’m sharing the text for my Listen to Your Mother reading. It’s a lovely thing to hear, but quite another to read. I suppose this is mostly for me but I hope it will bless and encourage you, too.
Motherhood extends the special privilege of shaping lives, impacting the future and changing the world.
Mama had just nine years to teach me everything she knew about being a mother. Thing is, I don’t think she realized she was teaching any more than I understood I was learning.
Like when I would sit on the floor next to her bed and she would dream out loud with me. She told me I was going to be Miss America 1984. I believed her. My older sister would win first, and when I was crowned two years later, we’d be the first sisters ever to share the title.
This was back in the early 70s before Disney princesses were born and when beauty pageants were the end-all, be-all for every little girl.
This was mama’s way of teaching me my own daughter would need to be told she was talented and beautiful and of immeasurable value; that part of my role would be to encourage her, to believe in her,and to help her see in herself what was yet to be seen. In those bedside chats she taught me to be present and positive and to mine deep potential and possibilities.
Or the time she explained the birds and the bees.
Now remember, this was a thousand years ago when TV couples had just been allowed to be seen sharing the same bed, and today’s PG-rated movies would have been slapped with an R.
My little eight-year-old mind couldn’t wrap itself around how THAT could go THERE and WHY IN THE WORLD anyone would want it to.
Naturally, I had a lot of questions.
Probably regretting her decision to make sure it was she who first taught us about sex, the conversation abruptly ended when, exasperated, she declared, “I am not going to sit here and draw pictures!”
This was mama’s way of teaching me it is a parent’s privilege and responsibility to initiate important conversations, even if they can get a little uncomfortable; and there are just some things a child needs to hear from her parent first, before the world gets a hold of them and tells a distorted version of a beautiful truth.
And then there was the way she’d respond when we’d ask, “What’s for dinner?” Now, it’s important for you to know before I tell you her response, that Mama was a woman of deeeep, deep faith. And it wasn’t until I had children of my own that I understood. They were picky, horrible eaters who preferred a PB&J over the wonderful meals I’d cook–
Then, I not only understood her response but I’d have to exercise extreme restraint not to screech it every time they asked What’s for dinner?
Chicken Shit on a Shingle.
Some of you know what I’m talking about….
This was Mama’s way of teaching me that some things about motherhood never change, and sometimes a right-timed expletive isn’t just appropriate, it’s necessary.
And then there was what Mama taught me when it rained.
She’d round the traffic circle at Barrow Elementary to pick us up after school, but she wouldn’t leave it at that, she just couldn’t. Our apartment was a mile or two past our town’s housing projects and when she’d spot a group of children walking home, she’d stop in traffic, make us open our doors on the sidewalk side and invite them to ride the rest of the way.
She couldn’t have cared less that their skin wasn’t the same color as ours–to her, they were just children whose mamas couldn’t pick them up. She wasn’t about to let them walk home in the rain! I didn’t like it because we were cramped in our car two or three laps deep and why did it always have to be us who gave rides?
But this was Mama’s way of teaching me that some things are just right, that those who have give to those who don’t, and red and yellow, black and white, are precious in His sight.
Mama taught me manners by always using “please” and “thank you” herself, and because she sang “You are My Sunshine” to me a thousand times, it was the lullaby to which my own babies fell asleep.
She died too damn young at 38, but even following her death, she continued to teach me.
She taught me that being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t scared, it just means you keep fighting for hope and praying for miracles, and it’s not the number of years you have that matter most but the life in those years. She taught me depth over breadth and that children are listening more than you’ll ever know.
Her death was my first lesson in what doesn’t kill you in life can make you stronger.
When I turned 34, I was aware that was the age my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
When I turned 38, I was aware that was the age she died.
At 39 and every year since, I realized I’ve outlived my mother.
Mama’s most profound lesson came as a result of her life and death:
To age gracefully.
Now, I don’t always get this right–last year was the BIG 5-0, and for just a little while I was sinking loooow.
But, age is the price we pay for life and it’s a privilege not everyone has.
The gray hair, crow’s feet, wrinkles; the memory we lose, the weight we gain, and arms too short to read a restaurant menu; the blasted eyebrows that forget where they live and move south…
The chance to know my children as young adults, and Lord willing, one day, to meet their future mates and my precious grand babies.
Mama died when I was nine and though she flat missed the Miss America prediction, I think she’d be happy to know I finally figured out the sex thing…
As far as my children know, three whole times.
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