Many thanks to the readers who responded to my invitation to participate in a special Mother’s Day post. The following list of remarks is organized, alphabetically, by the first name of the contributor:
Al Frank: I grew up in the era of June Cleaver (“Leave it to Beaver”) and Harriet Nelson (“Ozzie and Harriet”) who played stay-at-home moms, wearing high heels while preparing dinner for the family. I am grateful that my mother did not fit that stereotype. She sailed on a steamship to America by herself at age 19 to escape Nazi Germany where she met her future husband, also a German émigré. She volunteered her time with various organizations and engaged in many vocations. She and my dad brought their mothers to the US and they lived in our house. Although my parents had two boys, she was a role model for what a woman could achieve and an inspiration to countless girls in my extended family.
Bruce: Your suggestion to reflect on the influence of our Mothers made me think of Merle Haggard’s hit country song, Mama Tried: “Workin’ hours without rest; Wanted me to have the best; She tried to raise me right, but I refused.” During my youth, I wish I had been kindlier to my mother. Not that I was mean, but I was not very appreciative of all she did for me. At her 90th birthday celebration each of her five children delivered prepared speeches on what she meant to us. I’m glad I had that occasion to express my love and gratitude. I hope I inherited some of her kindheartedness and, in turn, passed it on to my children.
Dave McBride’s family recently held a celebration of life for his mom who died suddenly, but peacefully, on April 28, 2021. In his eulogy Dave related anecdotes that led to lessons he learned from her. In summary: #1: If you want something fixed, do it yourself. Lesson #2: Act if you believe. Lesson #3: Play to win, even against your mom. Lesson #4; Professionally, always strive to be your best self. Lesson #5: Family first.
Ellen: My mother was a very intelligent, practical woman who raised five children (my dad and four actual children). She was a stay-at-home mom until we were in high school and managed absolutely everything related to home and child rearing. She also managed the household finances. She was overly strict with the girls (to our everlasting detriment) but considerably less so with our brother. I would say one of her wisest decisions was never to give unsolicited advice to her adult children. If you asked, she offered her opinion; if not, you never knew what she thought. I’m sure she bit her tongue many times over the years.
Gerry K: My mother was born and raised in a Ukrainian immigrant farming community in east central Alberta. The events and experiences of those times and place gave her strong values and morals. When she started her own family, she used her experiences to guide her three boys with wonderful stories mixed with mom-isms. My favourite was “you have ten fingers and ten toes, no reason you cannot make your way through life.” She was also a terrific cook; I will forever miss sitting down to one of her meals, not just the food but the smiles that came with it.
Glen: The opening of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse — young James cutting out pictures from an Army and Navy Store catalogue while he talks to his mother, Mrs. Ramsay — now reminds me of the many elementary school projects that my mother supervised, always insisting that I finish the job and do it well. I remember cutting and pasting photos from several National Geographic magazines to put together a scrapbook called (my mother’s title): “What’s Cooking in Africa?” After her death, I used this album as a prop when I spoke at the tribute to her life. She had an enormous influence on me: to this day nothing bothers me more than an unfinished project or one that has received less than my best.
Ian: My mother was one of those efficient people who liked to get things done promptly. She was invariably the first to respond to a neighbourhood crisis as she always had a frozen dinner on hand ready to go. When it came to writing thank you notes or studying for an exam her advice was always the same: do it now as you never know what last minute interruption might appear unexpectedly. As well as being highly efficient she was always the life of every party and dinner. But, unfortunately, there was one event she was unprepared for: Alzheimer’s disease.
Janet: It’s a great life if you don’t weaken. Makes me think of the people in Ukraine now.
Karen: During my high school days, when heading out for an evening of fun with my friends, my mother would wish me a good time, always ending with these words, “Make choices tonight that won’t spoil the rest of your life.” Consequently, for the rest of the evening, I would contemplate exactly which choices those were. In retrospect, very good advice!
Linda R: I remember my mother’s amazing baking skills. What a treat to come home after school to freshly baked cookies, loaves, etc. Unfortunately, I was never able to master her pie crust. She also pushed her four children to work hard and to get a good education.
Marilyn: “There is something to love about every person. With some people, you just have to look deeper and search longer to find the loveable.” Perhaps it was being a mother of eleven children coupled with being a teacher in a public school that gave Mom such a big and loving heart (along with top organizational skills). These were not just words. As she spoke so she lived. “Deeds not only words.” There was always a place for an unexpected guest at our table, there was time for listening to worries and stories about the day, arms open wide for comfort and joyous reunions in spite of the “obvious likability” factor. She saw deep into our hearts and loved each of us unconditionally knowing that we learn through mistakes and that everyone deserves at least one more chance.
Pam: Stand up straight! As my mom didn’t speak in metaphors, her terse yet vital command, repeated often for effect, contributed to my good posture, not to my moral conduct (though no doubt she wished me to be morally upright as well).
Patricia Y: Ours was not a particularly demonstrative family when I was young. Instead, my mother showed her love daily through the food she provided. This was one area where she and I connected well. From the age of eight, I spent many happy hours with her in the kitchen willingly learning about cooking and nutrition. From that time together came a lifetime love of all aspects of cooking and for sharing the results with others. I have two treasures from those days: a 1932 copy of The Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer with Mum’s pencilled notes throughout and a special binder for recipes I, aged 10, bought with her – filled with recipes in my childish hand. Thank you, Mum, for this and for always being there when I needed you.
Roy: Mom didn’t complain much or have any tolerance if her children complained about their lot in life. You do your best with the cards you’re dealt. I don’t think she would agree with present day victim olympics.
Tim: In my sunset years, I have come to appreciate many things my mother did for her family. One of my fondest memories is the Sunday roast beef dinners we all attended with much joy. The highlight for me: her amazing gravy. I remember the look, the smell and the taste of her special comfort food. Thankfully, mom passed on her gravy recipe to Pam, who gave it to my wife Nina, who in turn taught it to our daughter Erin: through four generations as my grandmother probably introduced the recipe.