Mother’s Day is coming into view — Sunday, May 13 — and we face decisions about how to recognize mothers. Even if our own mother has departed this earth, we know so many mothers whom we might consider acknowledging in ways that will be special to them.
American Mother’s Day was begun in 1908, as Anna Jarvis wanted to eulogize her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, a peace activist who cared for the wounded during the Civil War, whether they were wearing blue or gray. As mothers, we value peace, and we reach out to our children, without assessing blame, taking sides, to try to heal the wounds they at times inflict upon each other.
As that special day comes this year, you, like me, might have watched “Long Lost Families,” where Lisa Joyner and Chris Jacobs use DNA to find long-lost mothers and other relatives. In that show, we see the dramatic need to be able to know our parentage.
What are the ways in which we acknowledge our mothers? My son Quentin always posts on Facebook a photo of me as a young mother, remembering me back in the days when we were a family on College Way in Urbana. Those memories are so sweet: our supportive neighbors Michelle and Siverina Whalen; Urbana College, where I was a professor — right in our back yard; the college students who were in and out of our home; and the freedom that Quentin and brother Lance had to roam without interference and danger. I have a poem Lance wrote to me framed in my dining room: “me/we/you/We are intertwined.”
What lessons do our mothers teach us, lessons that inform our actions, our ways of viewing our complex lives?
• Retired college professor Carolyn Jackson says, “In the blizzard of 1978, several people got stuck near our home in the country. My mother put on a spread for dinner with little lead time and no microwave to thaw the steak. Mr. Gay, a black man (this was before the politically correct “African American” identification), a mail carrier, sat at the communal dining table and slept in our house.”
• Roberta Combs: “My mother raised her five children all by herself with no help from Daddy. She taught us about family, so we toast her on SKYPE on the anniversary of her death and her birthday.”
• Texas artist D. Elden Childress reports her mother’s teachings: “You don’t have to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life, just what you want to do first.”
• Florida high school math teacher Hailey Zoe Anne says, “My mom taught me about being a Gamma girl. Gamma girls let their choices and personalities speak for themselves instead of being flashy and boastful.”
• Lift truck operator Robbie Burns supplied a long list of lessons that included, “Always love your children even when they’re mad at you,” and “Love your siblings, as one of these days you’re going to need a kidney.”
• Ohio University student Savannah Harvey reports, “My mom taught me to stand up for myself — to not let anyone walk all over me. I am now strong, independent and know when to pick my battles. No one will stand in my way.”
• Author Lydia Dykes of Harlan, Kentucky, says, “She taught me how to survive in a poor person’s world.”
• Foster mother and Edison State Community College graduate Lisa Mowen knows about sacrifice: “She was a single mom, and I can remember her wearing the same, worn, tattered winter coat year after year.”
• Texan instructional technology specialist Mary McKinney Ray indicates, “My mother taught me that I would never be the perfect mother, that I would make mistakes.”
• Former Edison State Community College President Dr. Kenneth Yowell credits his mother with teaching him “the art of being a gentleman.”
• Writer Paula Dotson Frew indicates her mother’s advice was, “Don’t borrow trouble.”
• Autism specialist Vivian Hazell says, “My mother gave all her six children away. I came to terms with it by believing she did the best that she could do. She is 95 now and I found her on Facebook. She was amazed I had forgiven her.”
• Recent Wright State University graduate Darla Renee Godin knows firsthand the importance of her mother’s teaching. “She taught me what it means to be a survivor in a difficult world.”
• Michelle Cisco Collett, engineer at Freudenberg-NOK, values her mother’s teachings because, “When I went through my divorce and had two small children that were depending on me to be strong even though I didn’t really want to be, I knew I had to be an example for them. My mother taught me to be strong, to depend on myself and stand on my own two feet.
• Don Stackhouse, owner of DJ Aerotech, has regrets: “The worst career mistake I made in my entire life was when I took a job for the money rather than because it would make the world better. It was contrary to my mother’s values.”
Amy Sims was taught kindness; Robin Howard, honesty; Robin Checkwicz, unconditional love; Susan Armour, the harm of gossip; Judith Baker, self-respect; Becky Telford, independence; Lynn Edwards Poehlman, financial responsibility.
As we birthed our babies and endured intense pain, no one told us of the challenges that lay ahead. We stumble on, doing the best we can do, hoping our children will forgive us for our mistakes, and always knowing that our lives are enriched immeasurably by the advent of our children, the mystery, the joy, and the love.
Dr. Blevins has taught undergraduate and graduate students as well as prison inmates, and now teaches communication and American literature classes at Edison State Community College. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.