A weekend all to myself...just sitting here looking at the calendar and I see that next Sunday will be Mother's Day. Funny thing, Mother's Day...for some of us it is a really cool day with cards, flowers, handmade macaroni necklaces, made by our kindergarten-aged grandchildren, that we wear with pride!
For others, it is a bittersweet time, remembering that our own mothers are estranged from us, or passed over to the other side, or just plain absent from our lives...yet the presence of our own children somehow soothes that ragged pain that hides in our hearts, reminding us that Mother's Day is not always the light and fluffy time it was inspired to be.
My grandmother was my mother for all of my life. She raised me, along with her husband, my grandfather...salt of the earth farm folk, kind, generous and just a little overwhelmed with my presence when I showed up, smack in the middle of their orderly, middle-aged lives.
About the time they thought themselves done with the agony and the ecstasty of parenting, they found they were back at the beginning again, with diapers and bottles and colic and earaches...and a small child who could be violently carsick on any trip over 5 miles. I must have been a rude awakening for them!
They persevered, doing for me what they had just finished doing for their 3 adult children...and doing it remarkably well, all things considered.
My grandmother made certain I had my "needles" on time at the clinic, and my huge bowlful of baps...warm cream and milk poured over a bowlful of cut-up home-made bread and topped with brown sugar...every night before bedtime. She read my stories to me faithfully, bathed me in the big round tin tub on the floor of the kitchen, right in front of the wood burning stove...pyjama'd me and bundled me into the bed, right on the stroke of 8 o'clock and not a minute later..."Mind, child, it's bedtime. Not now, but right now!"
She tolerated my noise for a while each day, before shooing me outside to "run and play, child", more often than not to spend time with my grandfather and my uncle in the farm fields.
Her chocolate cake, warm from the oven with brown sugar icing laid on and melted creamy-smooth into the cracks on the cake's top would stop my tears in a heartbeat. Always, a corner piece, because the icing pooled there in the corners of the pan, just a little thicker than anywhere else on the cake...
My grandmother, delicate and small, kind and patient beyond measure and the greatest tea-leaf reader in our area was my shelter from the taunts of the other kids..."Where is your REAL mother?" or "Huh! You don't even have a mom! OR even a dad..." It was from her calmness that I learned to wait it out, to go beyond...from her strength that I learned to stretch myself more than I thought possible and try harder than I ever knew I could. She taught me, by example, to go beyond the heartbreak and pain of the kids' teasing and bullying...to stand up and take them on, instead of crawling away, crying.
It was from her that I learned about putting a small smile on my face and going right out again into the world, to try something just one more time, one more time, til I got it right. She showed me how to hold my head up, how to stand tall and straight and to not be afraid...of anything. It wasn't what she said, because she said precious little. It was all in what she did and how she lived her life...calmly and with purpose.
So many little, seemingly insignificant things that I see in myself today all came from her example. I had no clue back then that I was absorbing her lessons by osmosis. today, I see clearly that I was.
Happy Mother's Day, Grandmother...my mom and my teacher.
Just one question...can you read this over there, on the other side?
Do you know that I know now, what I didn't know when you were still here with me? That you were then, and always will be, forever, my really truly mom...truly...
Love and hugs, forever your little child,
"My grandparents worked hard to give us everything that money could not buy."