As many of you know I lost my mother on New Years Eve last year. Another 12 hours and she would have made it to the New Year itself. There are days I can hardly believe it has been almost 5 months since she left us. There are days when I don’t want to think about it, I want to go through a day where something , even something small reminds me of her. So when I went looking for something to write about today I came to Mama Kat’s Writers Workshop. Of course with Mothers Day fast approaching that is what a lot of the prompts were about. One in particular kept gnawing at me and I had to write on it. Share a lesson you learned from your mother that you still carry to this day. Thoughts flowed through my mind. Childhood, teenage years, the last four years of her life. So this is probably going to be long-winded but I hope worth your time to read.
This is my mother before children. Fresh with the dewiness that comes from youth and expectation. When life is filled with anticipation. In her day it was settling down with the boy of her dreams and having a home and a life. Although I doubt she dreamed of the travel that would come with marrying a Navy man. She jumped in with both feet and a lot of love. Leaving behind her home state, her family, all she had ever known. This is her after having 3 children in the space of a year. My oldest sister came along a day before my mother turned the ripe old age of 19. My twins sisters would follow a little over a year later. Yes that is her figure after having 2 pregnancies, one of them being twins. Still beautiful, breathtakingly so. At this point she would put 3 babies in a car, before seat belt laws, before car seats were invented and drive the 500+ miles between Daddy’s base of Little Creek, in Virginia Beach and her rural home of Kentucky. Family was her life line. This is her after I came along. 11 years after the twins. She swears I was a planned baby, however, as a mom of a 12 yr old myself I could not picture having a baby again at that stage of the game on purpose. She was a braver woman then I.Not long after this picture my life would be turned upside down. The divorce of my parents would find my mom and I packing up everything we had left and moving to Virginia to start over. Again I saw her bravery and desire to be more, do more, face adversity head on. It was then I would learn my mother never got past 8th grade. Even with that mark against her she easily found work. To hear her speak you would never know she never graduated. You would also never know she got the farthest in school of any of her siblings, she didn’t want to leave when she did. But growing up in a small share cropping family keeping a roof over the head and food on the table took precedence over education. Besides you could learn all you needed to know on a farm and among your family. The move put mom to work as a cleaning lady for an apartment complex, people would move out and mom and several others would go in and clean the apartment before someone else moved in. It was there I learned that people would leave behind some cool things and their left overs could be our treasures. Lamps, vacuum cleaners, tables and other things would often find their way home with my mom. Despite losing all of our household furnishings in the divorce it was not long before Mom had enough stuff for us to furnish our own home. She also taught me that you should never close your heart on love. Meeting and marrying my stepfather. That is a whole other story. She remained with him until his death, even caring for him in the end. Again whole other post. As she aged she was still all about family. Caring for her youngest sister, till she passed in mom’s arms from colon cancer. I don’t think I could have done it. I know I couldn’t have. Because I could not be in the room when my father passed, or at her passing. The pain so great I was sure I would stop breathing at the same time they did. I learned a lot of lessons from her throughout my life, but the last 4 years taught me the most. Like there is no stress in the world that cannot be ignored when a baby is sleeping in your arms. That sustaining yourself is hard work, but work that pays off in the end when she taught me to can green beans and tomatoes. I also learned that the stuff in the cans.. yeah it’s crap.. trust me. But canning is a family event. Everyone pitches in, because the LOVE that goes into it is what makes it so special. That and the laughter that comes with tired , over heated women in a small kitchen surrounded by what seems to be 2 thousand empty quart jars to fill. It’s about laughter, take the chance to laugh at anything and everything, it cleanses the spirit and calms the heart. That they are my sisters even if we are all completely different personalities. That getting us all together for a picture with her would give me one of the hardest belly laughs at her expense I have ever had. It is also now one of my most cherished pictures of her and us. That life happens faster than you can blink, and you have to make the most of what you have right then. Hold your children, for before long they won’t be small anymore. She taught me that life leaves its mark on you, but never let it see you sweat. She taught me how strong I really am, that I can remain calm in crisis, that I often sell myself short, to reach for my dreams. It took losing her for me to step out and really say I love to write, I love to take pictures. I had always been her baby that sang. While I do love to sing, I love to write and take pictures more, I have to not let anyone put me in a box and stay there. But most of all she taught me that life is a ride you take with hills, valleys and things that take your breath and break your heart, but love and love alone can wipe all of that away. That forgiveness is so overwhelmingly freeing to the body that it can heal so many wounds. They are your family, with all their warts and bumps, if you can’t love them how can you expect to be loved in return?? Give all you have to everyone you meet without hesitation or abandon, no good deed will come back unrewarded and sometimes from the least likely of places. While this Mothers Day will be heart wrenching for me, I have learned that I too, am a mother. And that label does not always come from blood ties and labor pains. We mother because it is in our being to do so. It is taught by those before us and we tweak it and perfect it with each new generation. I love you Mommy, Happy Mothers Day..