Mothers Are Forever

I’ve had experience with a lot of mothers in my life. I am the son of one, for example. I assisted in the raising of two others closely related to me. I have filled a seat at the kitchen table of countless others who, though not blood related, were like mothers to me when I was growing up.

I had aunts who were like mothers. They fed me constantly.

“You look like you could use something to eat,” they’d say.

I was close to church ladies who pinched my cheek and swatted me away from the dessert table when necessary. I had schoolteachers who taught me to keep my feet and eyes facing forward. There were shop keepers who handed me an extra piece of Bazooka Bubble Gum just because.

So, I think I know something about what a mother is like. But, of course, my mind goes back to another generation.

She was never concerned about being a glamour girl. She was pretty because of who she was and how she carried herself. She had class. She was a cross between June Clever and Aunt Bee. She looked good in a pearl necklace with her kitchen apron on, and she would put a left-over chicken leg and biscuit in a brown paper sack for you just in case you got hungry.

She was nothing like any of the smart mouthed, loose talking, sassy dressing mothers on TV the last 40 years. Not one bit. She was proper. She was kind. She knew when to hold her mind and how to be decent when it was time to have her say.

Some might say she had it easy, staying home with the kids and taking care of the house. She never held a real job. But people who say that know nothing about the mothers I knew from long ago.

She was always the first one up in the morning. The kitchen light was on because she was at work before any of the rest of us got out of bed. Breakfast was ready and warm when you got up and came sleepy-eyed to the table.

“Did you sleep good?” she’d ask. Her voice always had a way of putting you at ease for the day.

If there were clean clothes to wear, it was because she was constantly washing and hanging clothes out on the line. The ironing board almost never got put away because it was in use every day. Socks were tucked and rolled. Underwear was folded. Shirts were pressed and hung neatly in the closet.

She was a master of the sewing machine. If a button was missing, it magically got replaced. If a pocket was torn, it was sewn up before you wore it the next time. If you outgrew your favorite pair of pants, she knew how to take them apart and make them fit again. If you wanted to make cut-off shorts out of an old pair of jeans, she could make that happen.

She lived at the baseball field in the spring and early summer months. She was your biggest fan. If the Ump got it wrong, she could see it from a mile away. When you dug in at the plate, the only voice you could hear out of the crowd was hers. And when you got home with dirt stains from top to bottom on your white uniform, she took over.

“Get that uniform off and give it to me. If I don’t soak that now, those red stains will never come out.”

As strong and independent as she was, she needed your help all the time.

In the spring she sent you out to pick wild blackberries. And she admired what you brought back so much that she stopped what she was doing and made jelly right then. She saved just enough for a cobbler that was in the oven before you could say Jack-be-nimble, Jack-be-quick.

You’ll never forget the heavenly aromas that came from her kitchen.

In the summer, she would call you out into the back yard and pull you up a chair right next to hers. The shade of the massive pecan trees was as good as it gets. She handed you a bowl of beans she had picked early that morning.

“Sit with me and help me snap these beans. I just don’t understand why your daddy grows enough beans for the whole county.”

That way, you learned to do something useful with your hands. You learned to be helpful. And you learned that good food comes to those who are willing to work for it, even a little bit.

In the fall, the pecan trees were heavy with nuts. The limbs sagging under the weight. She got you to climb up into one tree and then the next so you could shake the limbs with your scrawny little legs. But it was enough to make pecans fall like rain.

It seems like everything she did eventually came back to good things out of her kitchen. There was a pan of salted, roasted pecans later that night. Pecans in cookies. Pecans, and sometimes walnuts, on top of her German chocolate cake.

But she wasn’t just a woman of domestic value. She was a woman of faith and courage who helped guide you out into the world. She was there for every VBS and every chorus of Deep and Wide. She quietly sang the old hymns while she sat at her sewing machine, partly because she loved them and partly because she knew you were listening.

When you got in trouble, she was the first one to defend you and the first one to explain to you how it was your own stubborn fault that you got into this mess in the first place. She never spoiled you. She often corrected you. She always loved you.

That night when you came home troubled about your future, a teenager on the brink of becoming an adult, but unsure if you were ready to make all those difficult choices, she was the one who sat on the side of your bed with you and listened non-stop for an hour. She didn’t tell you how to fix anything. She just put her arm around you and told you how proud she was of you.

In everything, she was the one who made you believe in yourself. Your dad taught you how to do things. She taught you how to find the strength to get things done.

There is no one like her. Little children depend on her for everything. Grown men and women think of her with a tenderness that makes them a child safe in her arms again.

No matter how old you are, come Mother’s Day, we remember. We remember the sound of her voice. We remember the strength of her character. We remember the day we waved goodbye. We remember all the sacrifices she made so that our lives could be better.

Sometimes, we wish that moms could live forever. But in a way they do.

I see their mom every time I look at our two girls.

That’s because mothers are forever.

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