“Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother.”
My cousin and I as preschoolers did some adventuresome but naughty things.
On one occasion we got into her father’s workshop and painted each other’s hair green. She was an angelic blond; I was a demonic redhead; now we were little green-headed monsters.
Having finished with the paint job, we presented ourselves to Auntie, my cousin’s mother.
Alarmed, she immediately began to work on procedures to remove oil and lead-based paint without damaging her daughter.
I fled for home one mile away.
While trudging slowly home, I noted Auntie’s car approaching in the distance. I hid in the ditch. Auntie arrived at my place to inform Mother of the incident and to prescribe the remedy she had found successful in cleansing my cousin’s hair.
I was not there, but neither was I on the road.
That’s when both mothers experienced more anxiety. Had I stopped at the creek when I crossed the bridge to see if I could wash the paint out before presenting myself home? Might I have fallen in?
On another occasion, still in those early years of preschool innocence, we cut the head off a farmyard hen. My cousin held the hen, neck across the block, I wheeled the ax. On presenting the hen to her mother, we were soon to learn a chicken dinner had not been planned. Furthermore, my cousin now had blood on her clean dress for her mother to clean.
Auntie was too busy with other tasks to have time to eviscerate a hen and pluck feathers. I was told she did, however, but I was not invited for dinner.
They cleaned our hair, they put us to bed, and they forgave our naughtiness. But we as their children had just added another stress to their day.
I do remember my aunt was always gracious and kind to me in the pursuing decades. Years later, I was a pallbearer at her funeral. I regret today I never verbally thanked her for her forgiving spirit and her concern for my wellbeing.
I would describe my mother’s walk as determined. Her practical shoes hit the floor with a decided clunk. Where did mother get her energy to manage a household, teach school, direct choirs and plays, encourage us in our music lessons and our education, and tolerate the escapades of six sons? My mother was a beautiful example of determination, organization and kindness in dealing with her students.
How much mothers give of themselves in the raising of children. I watch pictures of Ukrainian mothers today clutching their children in bunkers to protect them from falling debris, pushing them in strollers for kilometers as they flee from the ravishing of the present war.
I recall the story, fiction or fact I’m not sure, of the farmer who found the burned hen after a grass fire had swept through his place. When he nudged it over with the toe of his boot, out ran several baby chicks.
It is this inherent self-denying quality of mothers, this extra reserve of energy and patience devoid of violence and aggression that we honour each Mother’s Day.
E.M. Forster wrote:
“I am sure that if the mothers of the world could meet, there would be no more wars.”