My mom and dad weren’t perfect parents. They had a bagful of stuff which leads to parenting mistakes and I carried the effects of those mistakes in my own bag for many years. I had to work to throw out the junk and distill out the gold. Can I say that it has been worth the work and self-discovery and frankly, I have come to really appreciate my parents, their mistakes and how the process of distilling out the gold has impacted my life for good?
So today, on Mother’s Day, I want to honor my mom. She has lived a magnificent life and if I can do as well with my own messiness and imperfections then it will be enough.
I want to share a story that happened when my mom was 80 years old or maybe 79. We aren’t really sure. She never had a birth certificate until many years after she was born. When my mother came into the world she was premature. They lived in a small town named Etna in Wyoming. Although my grandmother had a doctor with her, he was drunk. When he cut my mother free of the umbilical cord he plopped her on top of the dresser and said, “She won’t live.” He never made out a birth certificate for the doomed baby.
I can tell you that made my great-grandmother bristle up. “We’ll see about that”, was her response. She took that tiny little girl and put her in the warming drawer of the old wood burning stove. They laid my mother on newspapers and changed them when they were soiled. Her skin was so fragile that it would rub right off so she stayed naked on the paper for weeks.
It took constant watching to keep the stove going night and day for a couple of months so that the warming drawer didn’t get too hot or too cold. It’s a testament to my mother’s indomitable spirit that she lived and thrived and to my grandmother who believed she would.
Now, back to the story I want to share. Our whole family had just returned home from our annual family reunion. My Arizona sister spent a couple of days with mom before going home.
Now it’s important to the story that you know this about my mother, she LOVES birds. She has canaries, doves, quail, lovebirds, cockatiels, finches and more. Someone is always giving my mother a bird or two. Her back room is a bird Mecca.
She also had chickens. Yup, right off of Main Street in Logan, Utah she had a flock of hens. One day someone asked her to take a BIG red rooster. She was glad to have him until she discovered that he crowed all the time. Not just in the AM but all the time. So she had to keep him in the garage to keep her neighbors happy until she could find him a “farm” home. My mom named the big red bird Trumpet because he constantly trumpeted the fact that he was here and alive! While my sister was there he got out.
My sister and my mom began chasing him around the yard and finally cornered him behind a bunch of bushes. They could just see him back there pacing back and forth, head bobbing on his long neck. My sister yelled, “Get him mom” and our 80-year-old mother dove, I mean dove, into the bushes. She hit the ground on her knees and the bushes began shaking violently as my sister watched the bottoms of my mom’s shoes open-mouthed.
Then my mom emerged with that huge red rooster by the neck. She was grinning ear to ear. She tipped the bird over and grabbed him by the feet until he hung limply in her hands. Then she swung him up to her chest and hugged him like a small child, putting her cheek on his beak. He closed his eyes and nestled in. “We’re friends,” my mom said.
Can you visualize the scene, my 80-year-old mom diving to her knees into a bunch of bushes and wrestling that big red rooster down? It’s hysterical to think about and amazing at the same time. Here is that tiny baby, destined to die, who didn’t; who at 80 is an accomplished rooster wrestler!
After seeing my mom do what she did my sister went out and bought a beautiful carved wooden rooster. “I’m going to put it in my kitchen,” she said. “Whenever I think I can’t do something or handle something, I’m going to remember my 80-year-old mother wrestling that rooster down. If she can do that I can do anything too.”
That’s the golden nugget I got from my mother. She demonstrated to me that you can do whatever you put your mind to no matter what it takes or how long, or how many mistakes you make.
Mom has been a wonder of resilience and persistence. She used her brain all the time to figure things out. When the dog chewed up the front of my new ballet costume mom figured out how to repair it with orange fish gravel. Amazing. The show must go on.
She ironed men’s shirts, one at a time, for 15 cents each to pay for bread, milk and ice cream. She figured out how to get kids to church, lessons, school, the doctor and the dentist, for the most part without a car. She figured out how to make a pot of rice and a package of hot dogs stretch for nine kids.
When she was in her fifties she began teaching other women how to do amazing things. In her sixties, she took voice lessons for the first time although she had been singing at weddings and funerals for many years. She went back to college, joined a sorority and learned more new things.
She got a job at the university bakery in Logan, UT and worked there for many years. Eventually, she made doughnuts in a little store in Paradise, Utah and made history – people drove for miles on the one day a week that she baked.
Then she went to work for Linn’s grocery in her late sixty’s and worked full time right into her eighties. Now she rests – except when she is walking the dogs, feeding the chickens, taking eggs to her neighbors…My mom, she isn’t just a survivor but a striver!! A mother extraordinaire!
There aren’t any perfect parents. There aren’t any parents without a bag of stuff. There aren’t any parents who won’t make a good many mistakes and because of that, their kids will have a bag of stuff. But in the end what we do will be enough if we do our best, love our families, and keep on keeping on when it is tough. That is a beautiful legacy to leave our children.
Today I have a big rooster on my kitchen wall, my bag weighs less, and I believe I can do anything.