I was asked by a younger family member whose Mother recently passed how to spend Mother’s Day. I replied by saying spend it with other people and their Mother or spend it alone depending on what makes you feel at peace. After thinking about it I realized that I needed to swallow my own pill. So I spent Mother’s Day doing some of the things my Mother loved to do. Yes, I was invited to share the day with others but I didn’t want the reminder that I was a bench warmer and could only be a spectator from the sideline. So I politely declined and had the most wonderful glorious time both honoring and remembering my Mother!
It was a beautiful Pennsylvania morning, quite different from a New York or a North Carolina morning, and I made coffee and sipped it on the back deck looking out at the trees whose leaves have returned in full. My Mother loved her coffee. I used to ask her why she drank it for as a child I didn’t quite understand the attraction to the bitter taste. How things have changed! When it comes to coffee, I have become my Mother!
Mom also loved to be outside. It was there she taught us so many of the world’s wonders. After finishing my coffee I decided to take a long walk and revisit the Little Lessons on nature that my Mother taught us. I noted the different trees like the long leaf pine, the birch, and the dogwood trees both pink and white. I remembered the folklore she told us of the dogwood and why it no longer grows to be a tall and sprawling tree as well as the story hidden in its beautiful flower. She loved flowers. They lined the sidewalk that lead to the front steps of the home I grew up in and mirrored the flower bed in front of the big picture window filled with buttercups and snap dragons.
Perched in the trees and accompanying me along the way were the robin and the sparrow that she taught us how to identify and of course her and my favorite fellow in red, the cardinal. Not only did she teach us what they looked like she would point out what they sounded like including the haunting whippoorwill and the nocturnal owl.
Momma liked the country and the quiet that usually comes as a part of the package. But then again, having six kids may have had something to do with the desire for peace and quiet. And whereas I was an eager participant in the mini science lectures that included geography, biology, and astronomy, it was our chemistry that would often be opposites like protons and electrons. She would say left and I would want to go right. The fullness of life in a ranch house in Salisbury, North Carolina was enough for her. Not me though, I had to escape and find the biggest, the brightest, and the loudest place I could find. Her preferred stage was not nearly big enough for my imagination which she encouraged me to have and the bigger the better. Now I do my best to mimic the serenity of Salisbury with Serenity House in Yardley, Pennsylvania.
My Mother was also quick to be found reading and writing. So this is my writing part and I read one of the most memorable passages that she would recite to us from her favorite book, The Holy Bible. “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight O LORD, my Strength and my Redeemer.” It’s from the book of Psalms (19:14) and was one of the many scriptures she used to teach us growth and character. She would also recite poetry to us and Paul Lawrence Dunbar was a mutual favorite. “Little brown baby wif sparklin’ eyes, come to yo’ pappy an’ set on his knee.” I can still hear her deliver it with such wondrous expression as if she were channeling the poet himself.
But the one thing that my Mother loved and shared with me in our own unique way was painting and drawing. She was gifted with the brush and even painted me as a child. She called me Pocahontas, her little Indian princess and created a likeness on canvas of me with two long braids on the side of my head, no headband though! She wanted more than anything for me to pursue this talent and to utilize this gift as I inherited her ability to almost photograph with a pencil, pastel, or paint brush. She wanted me to pursue art as a career and would remind me that I was born on Norman Rockwell’s birthday.
My passion was music so I went off chasing another art form. She thought it was cool that I was on the radio and always supported whatever I chose to do but she wanted so much for me to be an artist as it is a rare gift. I never will forget when I called to tell her that I got the job as the Program Director at a radio station in New York City. I was on a three way call with my younger sister and I was so excited to tell her, “Ma, I just got a job as the program director in the number one market!” And she said to me, “Oh, so you are a secretary now! That’s nice.” Needless to say I never lived that one down with my sister and I probably would have enjoyed being a secretary more!
Although it was my intent to paint or draw today, I didn’t. I’ve always and still struggle with being intimidated by this talent so I opted to express my artistic vision with the lens and not the brush. And the one thing I can say most about my mother aside from being kind, loving, generous, beautiful, brilliant, talented, funny, encouraging, strong, supportive, and patient; she was very understanding. So perhaps next Mother’s Day I’ll use paint instead of the pen and put my day on canvas. Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy!