I love the symmetry of a life like that, love the idea of Sunday dinner, the whole family gathered around one big farmhouse table

I was a child of the small-town South of the early ’60s, and all the women I knew stayed home with their children, whether they cared to or not…I also expected to get married and have children. Of course I would; that’s what little girls did…What I would be was a mother.

It’s not such a retro idea when you grow up in a family like mine…But I asked my Mother once what she felt she had been born to be, and without hesitation she said, “I was born to be a mother.” My father felt the same way about being a father. Everything my parents did, they did to support the family. We children were their role in the world…

But God help the woman who believes this message too wholeheartedly, who feels too acutely that motherhood truly defines her. The very culture that insists that raising a child is the single most important thing a woman can do with her life also maintains that she must be willing to surrender that identity the instant her child leaves home. The notorious “helicopter parent,” the meddling mother, the critical mother-in-law — these are all tropes at least as pervasive and unchallenged as any Madonna and Child image of manifest womanhood. A mother who can’t “let go” is a grasping, desperate creature, entirely to be pitied if not openly reviled…

It wasn’t always this way. When the house my grandparents lived in burned down during the Depression, the whole family moved in with my great-grandparents. When my other great-grandmother became widowed, she joined them in the farmhouse. No one questioned the wisdom of this arrangement or suspected any of them of being emotionally stunted, unable to let go. They simply expected to spend the rest of their lives together, sitting on the porch in the cool of the evening, talking to one another.

I love the symmetry of a life like that, love the idea of Sunday dinner after church, the whole family gathered around one big farmhouse table, but I’m also grateful to live in my own time and place…

But I struggle with the constant reminders that my sons share their lives primarily with people I’ve never met, that they all do work I know only in its broadest outlines. They love me; I know that. They call often to chat, and they don’t hesitate to ask for advice if they’re unsure of something. But exactly as their own culture demands, they have also created lives in which my husband and I are on the margins. Peripheral. Almost obsolete. Even a house fire would not send them back to live with us forever.

I will love having them all home for Mother’s Day, but in one tiny little corner of my mind I will also be missing the days when they were still so small and so needy, when the family circle was still close and closed. I will miss the smell of their sweaty little-boy necks and the feel of their damp fingers clutching my blouse as I bounced them on my hip. And I will remember all the years when Mother’s Day meant crayoned cards and plaster-of-Paris handprints and weedy bouquets made of clover and henbit and creeping Charlie and dandelion. The most beautiful flowers in all the world.

~ Margaret Renkl, excerpts from The Mother’s Day Trap (NY Times, May 7, 2018)

 


Photo: Elena Shumilova (Saint-Petersburg) with  a bit more about golden fish

Comments

  1. Exactly!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A very nostalgic post! It sure resonated with me! Thanks for posting. I knew I wanted to, and did share it on Facebook! Take care!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. what a beautiful post, david –

    Liked by 1 person

  4. freddiegeorgia says:

    So very appropriate for these times. Lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A lovely post and a poignant reminder that our mothers our human, individuals with their own wants, needs, dreams, disappointments and desires. It’s so easy (and natural I think) to put moms in this other, amorphous category. They are expected to be perpetually ‘on call,’ available at a moment’s notice when we need them, but doing their own thing when we don’t, not interfering or intruding in our lives. It’s a delicate dance they do. I am so grateful for mine… Happy Mother’s Day, Susan!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. A very touching post, David. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Anonymous says:

    loved it and shared it. 4 daughters and the youngest 2 graduate from high school next month. life will never be the same again.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. novarosales says:

    Loved it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Judith D Dixon says:

    What I Learned From My Mother
    BY JULIA KASDORF

    I learned from my mother how to love
    the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
    in case you have to rush to the hospital
    with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
    still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
    large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
    grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
    and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
    and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
    I learned to attend viewings even if I didn’t know
    the deceased, to press the moist hands
    of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
    sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
    I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
    what anyone will remember is that we came.
    I learned to believe I had the power to ease
    awful pains materially like an angel.
    Like a doctor, I learned to create
    from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
    you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
    To every house you enter, you must offer
    healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
    the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Judith D Dixon says:

    The Lanyard – Billy Collins

    The other day I was ricocheting slowly
    off the blue walls of this room,
    moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
    from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
    when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
    where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

    No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
    could send one into the past more suddenly-
    a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
    by a deep Adirondack lake
    learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
    into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

    I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
    or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
    but that did not keep me from crossing
    strand over strand again and again
    until I had made a boxy
    red and white lanyard for my mother.

    She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
    and I gave her a lanyard.
    She nursed me in many a sick room,
    lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
    laid cold face-clothes on my forehead,
    and then led me out into the air light

    and taught me to walk and swim,
    and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
    Here are thousands of meals, she said,
    and here is clothing and a good education.
    And here is your lanyard, I replied,
    which I made with a little help from a counselor.

    Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
    strong legs, bones and teeth,
    and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
    and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
    And here, I wish to say to her now,
    is a smaller gift – not the worn truth

    that you can never repay your mother,
    but the rueful admission that when she took
    the two-toned lanyard from my hand,
    I was as sure as a boy could be
    that this useless, worthless thing I wove
    out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. 2 sweet, gentle and lovely posts today. Both were wonderful Mother’s Day gifts. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. It’s Mothering Sunday in Switzerland too – but not yet in France. I therefore have the joys and words on three occasions. In March for the UK/Irish friends, today for a large part of the world and on the last Sunday in May for the French women… 😉 LUcky me!

    One very lovely ‘quote’ I translate here roughly – one that’s not only addressing mothers but women:

    The key to true femininity is motherliness 💖
    And motherliness does not mean the same thing as motherhood
    Every woman is a mother – every mother is a woman.
    Blessed be the female power,
    Blessed be the mother of all mothers – Mother Earth! Our thanks to her too 💐🧚♀💌

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Beautiful words, and a message that can I relate to. Thank you David.

    Liked by 1 person

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