Let’s celebrate all kinds of mothers this month
Remembering the beautiful, regal, poised — and vigilant — moms of our lives
It was one of these back split houses built about half a century ago, designed by clever if mischievous architects for growing families: the living room, kitchen, and dining room upstairs, maybe with a bedroom or two, and the family room and a couple of extra bedrooms downstairs.
In the days when I made house calls, “Mrs. N,” her daughter and son-in-law and their three (or four, maybe. I forget) children lived in one of them. At the top of the stairs, in a little alcove sort of, sat one of those telephone desks, a small chair with an attached side desk holding the phone. (It was the days, boys and girls, when we had land lines. Phones actually connected to the wall and the world by a cord. Imagine.)
There were many reasons for the house call: Mrs. N had congestive heart failure, was pretty much unable to make regular visits to the office; her home was conveniently located about halfway between my house and the hospital; and (this is a confession, kids) she made the best espresso in the city. Move over Starbucks. Mrs. N, no matter how sick she was, was always in the little alcove, sitting beside the phone, as though the prime minister was about to call, maybe the Queen. We’ll return to Her Majesty in a moment.
From this vantage point, a perch in any other language, she could view the family’s comings and goings through both the front and back-kitchen doors of the house, could monitor the phone. She could keep watch. Nothing would escape her attention, some of it unwanted but none of it, in her view, unnecessary. She was, in other words, vigilant. Her vigilance included watching the clock, making sure everyone was dressed properly before they went out the door, guaranteeing no food was ever left untouched. It also extended to tooth brushing. Every one of those three or four kids had to have their teeth inspected before leaving for school. “You brush the teeth?” she’d ask each one of them. They’d say, “I brushed, Nona, I did!” No matter; she’d bend close, check their breath, then give them a little tap on the head. Her heart may have been faulty, but her nose worked perfectly. The tap, a tad more forceful than the word tap might imply, was one part “OK, I believe you this time but you’re still on probation,” one part, “You’re OK. Go!” and one part, “I love you.”
Vigilant. It’s not a word you think of when you think of mothering — maybe guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or peacekeeping, but not mothering. Ever look up (or better yet, make up) a Wordle? They’re like word clouds, containing words that represent a concept. Those close to the concept or used more to describe it are large; those that represent the concept a bit less are smaller. Take “Canada” for example. Bigger words would maybe be north, hockey, snow — things people more often use to describe Canada. Smaller ones might be beaver, flag, loonie. Twenty-fours, maybe. If the Wordle is about mothers, like the one you can see here, the “kind” sort of pops out as the most representative. You can see for yourself what the others are — generous, unselfish, you get the picture. Want to have fun one night with the family? Make up a Wordle around Trump. Or LRT, maybe. Take your pick. Fun, like I said. The problem with Wordling “mother” though is that there are so many kinds of mothers. My own mother, now long gone, fit the Wordle bill perfectly with the addition of beautiful, regal and poised. My mother-inlaw, also easily fitting the basic requirements if you will, would need to have easy-to-giggle, warm, huggable. Oh, and lovable. I am a lucky man: I miss them both equally. And then are non-traditional mothers, those who don’t appear in Norman Rockwell paintings.
Adoptive mothers, for example, who I know for a fact get a special place in heaven. Mothers whose hearts have been sculpted by the loss of a baby or grown child. Grandmothers who occupy the role of mother. Foster mothers. There are mothers of countries, even continents — Golda Meir, the mother of Israel for example. And ironically enough, Angela Merkel, the mother of Germany, and some would argue, of Europe. Queen Elizabeth, among her many titles, might be considered Mother of the Commonwealth.
Mrs. N, like my own mother and motherin-law, like Golda for that matter, are long gone, now retired to their rest, to their kitchen in the sky, or for Mrs. N, her watchful alcove.
Heaven would be a good place for her: she could watch us all. In fact, I’m pretty sure she does.
Let’s celebrate them all — kind, unselfish, generous, loving, even flawed — this month/ week. Let’s hold them in our hearts like they’ve held us. Let’s be vigilant about remembering them.