“Every mom aspires to be the World’s Greatest Mom, and by some crazy quirk of logic, most succeed.”*
In this week preceding the day some politician has randomly designated “Mother’s Day”, possibly driven by payoffs from the florist and greeting card lobbyists, our thoughts seem to go back in time to the days when our own mothers were the moving forces in our lives. The images depicted by said industries in their commercials and on their product are of sentimental and unrealistic scenes of domestic bliss. The regal women in their pretend world are always perfectly coiffed and put-together, make-up applied professionally and coordinated designer clothing clinging, wrinkle-free, to a model’s body.
I sit here tonight and from nowhere in my dimmest memory, can I draw forth such a vision.
What I do remember is a slightly overweight woman in mule slippers and an old terry-cloth robe, standing at the bottom of the stairs and yelling, “If you don’t get out of bed and down here right now, you’ll get no breakfast, AND you’ll miss your bus!”
The sack lunch we were given wasn’t filled with Lunchables or with Jiff peanut-butter (“Choosy mothers choose Jiff!”) and Smucker’s jelly sandwiches (unless those were on sale that week), along with an apple and a note. Lunch was more likely to be a potted meat sandwich (bargain bread with the paste-like stuff smeared over it) with some slightly stale potato chips (from the 5 pound bargain package) tucked into a baggie inside. By lunchtime, it would taste like a gourmet feast to the hungry urchin into whose hands it had been shoved as he ran to catch the bus.
You see, my mother never was anything like a Desperate Housewife or one of the Real Housewives of (fill-in-the-blank). She was Mom – sometimes grumpy, sometimes doting – often harried, frequently docile – but always loving and teaching and pushing. There was never a time when we didn’t know that she wanted the best for her children. Oh, we didn’t always show her respect and she didn’t always have a quiet demeanor when dealing with us, but there was no doubt she was on our side.
I learned to think on my feet from Mom, as we sat and argued for hours. Truly, that trait of mine (the arguing) comes from her and not from my father, who hated arguments of any ilk. But, I will always have the picture in my mind of Mom, as she stopped to think about a point her adversary had just made. She would purse her lips, then stretch them thin, tapping her cheek with a long finger, considering carefully what had been said. Within seconds, the answer was on her tongue and the verbal joust would resume.
Even into her old age, she remained an able debater, leading some of her children to avoid delicate subjects, should she decide to challenge any random premise. The skills of logic I learned in those encounters have served well in many situations. The argumentativeness, I’ve had to work to control a bit more than I’d like to admit.
I could spend hours discussing her traits, good and bad. The strident defense of her children when they were accused unfairly, the stubbornness of refusing to be bullied into paying fees for useless services, the tirades at us for our lack of initiative in housework – all of these and countless more, went into who the woman was and is, but only one more occurrence will I burden you with today.
I will admit that I was the strangest of her children and the hardest for her to understand. I would cry at nothing, stomping up to my bedroom and sulking for hours over the least of slights. I could work with tirelessness on a project that caught my fancy, but then would sit in indolence and procrastination when presented with a job which had to be accomplished, but in which I had no interest.
I remember one particular evening, when I had once again stormed up the stairs long before bedtime and lay sobbing on my bed. As the time to be asleep passed and my tirade continued unabated, Mom called me downstairs. At that time of night, it was an action which usually meant only one thing; that corporal punishment was imminent. But, this time, she led me to her chair and, sitting down in it, set me on her lap and just held me. I was eight, and hadn’t been in this position for a number of years, but it was comforting. Kindly, she asked what was really bothering me.
I actually didn’t know, but the words just popped out, “I want a puppy!”
My Dad, sitting in his recliner across the room, snorted. But, Mom just talked with me gently about the situation, explaining quietly and lovingly that the family dog would have to do for now, since there was no way possible that each of the five kids could have their own pet. (We weren’t licensed to be a zoo.) I didn’t really want a puppy; it was just the first thing that came into my head. But, the loving and tender way that Mom responded was all I needed to calm down and stop crying.
Within a very short time, I was on my way to bed, comforted and secure. It was one of the few times I dropped right off to sleep upon lying down. A mother’s love can do that.
Do I have a point? Just this: My mom didn’t fit a single one of the idealrequirements that makes up the perfect mother in the eyes of the rest of the world. That had nothing to do with her ability to do the work that God had set in front of her.
She wasn’t a perfect person in any way, but she was exactly the mother I needed to help me grow up into a man who could think for himself, learning to love another woman who would also be a perfect mother, and becoming a father who could love and teach and support his own children.
In writing this, I mean to honor, not only my own mother who needed the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon to raise her brood, but mothers everywhere who daily do the task in front of them. It is largely a thankless job for 364 days of the year, but it does continue for every one of those monotonous and unexceptional days, in spite of the lack of notice on our part.
I hope you will take the time to let your mother know of your honor and love, and respect in a very real way. Do it, not only this weekend, but also upon every opportunity which presents itself on the other days of the year and indeed, for the rest of her life.
It will only be a partial payment of a debt which is owed her.
“If you have a mom, there is nowhere you are likely to go where a prayer has not already been.”
(Robert Brault~American writer)
“Her children stand and bless her…”
(Proverbs 31:28 NLT)
* Robert Brault, “A Robert Brault Reader”, May 5, 2012
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.
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