Family, personal

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

Well, today isn’t actually Mother’s Day, but Ann and I will be gone tomorrow and thought I’d just go ahead and put this out today.

I believe in Mothers. I guess I almost have to…growing up, I had six: my real mother, of course, and my five older sisters. When I was young, everyone took care of me. I guess I was lucky that way. I don’t recall, of course, but reportedly I didn’t speak for the first couple of years. I only needed to point to achieve the prize I wanted, for with a simple point or a quiet honk, I had five sisters snapping to attention to fetch something for little baby brother. Oh, those must have been the days.

And my real mother was magical. She had the experience of raising five children before I came along. (All different in so many ways, but more alike than any of us care to admit.) She had the wisdom of age—she was forty-five years old when I was born. She had the patience of a saint. We went for long walks in the woods, often resulting in my little legs being exhausted before our return home. We’d stay out in those woods for hours and hours, reading stories, looking at bugs and just listening to the sounds of nature (almost always soothing but never silent). When it was time to head back to the house, she’d often carry me home. I really don’t know how. I’m not forty yet, but I doubt I could carry a 4-6 year old child a mile on my shoulders or back. But somehow, she always managed to get us home, and often with a lovely assortment of new sticks or pine cones or leaves. (Once, in the fall, we brought home a collection of beautiful and brilliant red leaves. They turned out to be poison oak leaves, but that’s for another story.)

Those walks in the woods gave me the wisdom to believe in nature, to love the outdoors and to enjoy the simple beauty of an oak leaf or a weed in bloom. The walks in the woods really prepared me for my future. Sure, college, graduate school and years of working and networking gave me some preparation, but the time in the woods getting to know myself and learning from Mama really cemented my personality. Those walks also gave me the strength to endure what was to come.

Just a little over a year ago, my belief in the power of Mothers was sorely tested. Murdered. It is so very hard to type that word that I really can’t express it. My fingers freeze and continue to hit the wrong keys. But that’s what happened to my Mama. Murdered as she was getting ready to enjoy her favorite time of the year—spring. The flowers were just starting to bloom. In fact, she had come to Bessemer to meet several of us for lunch at the Bright Star restaurant to celebrate her 83rd birthday just the weekend before. As we were preparing to part ways after lunch, she reached into the trunk of the car and pulled out a bouquet of jonquils and daffodils for Ann and me. I was so pleased to have them then.

Now the flowers brighten my heart and mind when I think back about them—doubly so when I saw the few bloom this year that I have transplanted from our home place in Octagon to our yard here in Birmingham. Immeasurably so when I saw the thousands blooming in Octagon this spring.

But the flowers are nothing compared to the woods. I’ve gone walking in the woods more in the last year than I had in many years past. I’ve fought my way through blackberry brambles, I’ve slipped through muddy patches and I’ve crouched through wisteria vines wrapping themselves around trees. I’ve paused in the deepest, darkest of these places to think, to pray and to be with Mama. It is at those times when I truly feel her presence, telling me it will be okay, reminding me of the power of those deep woods.

I can really think when I’m in those deep woods, so very changed from my youth but still remarkably the same. I can think, too, when I stare into the bloom of a jonquil or, more recently, an iris. Looking closely, I can make out the beautiful color variations, the intricate details and most importantly, the power of the earth and the power of my Mama. And that’s what all this really comes down to: my belief in my Mama. Those woods and those flowers sustain her today. I feel sadness when I go to the cemetery and put flowers on her grave, but no overpowering connection. Sure, I cry each time and I feel the deep loss that we all feel.

I feel sadness when I walk behind the house to put flowers on the place she was found. Certainly, I feel anger here as well, something I’ll hopefully work my way through in years to come.

But it is in those woods, that land, that dark red, unbelievably muddy, sticky as glue earth that I feel the true power of Mama. I feel love and strength and the gentle beauty of nature, I feel my love of the outdoors, and I feel my Mama when I go to the deep woods. Those woods sustain me. And that is why I believe and will always believe in mothers.

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