More than 40 years ago, I sat at my desk before Mother’s Day to write down the gratitude in my heart to the woman who deserved to receive it. I recently found that letter in the pile of papers that came from my parents’ home, and I feel it is worth repeating as what might be a universal description of a good mother. I began the letter this way:
“I don’t believe a day goes by but that I remember a saying, a way you did something for us, or better yet, the things you taught me about how to live a good life.” One of those memories was being told never to make fun of anyone who is different in any way, a teachable moment in time.
I remember the windy day I accidentally let a $5 bill blow out the window of the car. I was very upset because I knew just how hard it was to replace $5 in the 1950s, but I did not receive a reprimand. She knew no punishment was deserved when I was already punishing myself for my carelessness.
I remember days when Mother would stop to fix something, even when she was in the middle of her own work.
I remember losing my temper at age 10 and throwing my favorite dollhouse person so hard that I broke her. Mother was justly firm and explained that it would not be replaced. It took only one more incident of temper before I began to control it.
I remember new Easter outfits and black patent leather shoes with straps, without realizing at the time that Mother was not in new clothes.
I remember her being angry with a childhood friend who had hurt me. Long after I had forgiven my friend, my mother’s protective instinct was still there.
I remember times when I thought she was busy and tried to get away with something, only to find she had those proverbial eyes in the back of her head.
At the end of the day when I was a little girl who had gone missing and the whole village was out looking for me, I remember being switched on the legs all the way down the street of our small town – in spite of Mother’s relief in finding me. In today’s world, she would have been brought before a judge. It is interesting that I do not remember the punishment as unjust. The lesson I learned for safe decisions that day was that I never again went away without permission.
I remember being held accountable for my actions, and I remember wonderful family days filled with good times, good meals, homemade ice cream in the winter and family gatherings around the piano in the days before television redesigned our leisure time.
I remember being unhappy at times, but never unloved. Mother used to say that she never had much to give us children, but my memories are that she gave us so much wealth that there is enough to pass on to my children.
It sometimes gives me pause to think about why I was born into our family, when others are not so fortunate. It has made me sensitive to other people and their needs, perhaps to try to even up the unfairness they have experienced.
I am so very thankful that I told her in that letter how grateful I was for all the years of her loving care. This Mother’s Day, 41 years later, my mother has been gone for many years, but I still don’t believe a day goes by but that in some way I remember a saying, a way she did something for us, or better yet, the things she taught me about how to live. I cannot think of anyone I know with enough money to buy a greater gift than that.