Mother’s Day Musings
By Laurie Crowley
Every year, Mother’s Day takes on a life of its own—it is not your typical Sunday. As a mother of four, I have had many different experiences on this special day. When you have small children, somehow the day seems to be more about them than about you (why should this day be different from any other?).
In our house on Mother’s Day, it is a family tradition that I get to sleep in as long as I want and have breakfast in bed when I awake. The problem is that, although I could sleep until noon, the children have breakfast ready at 8:30 a.m. A parade of little feet stomps up the stairs every few minutes to see if I am awake. I usually give in when one of them asks (an inch from my face), “Are you awake?” The anticipation of bringing me breakfast rivals that of Christmas morning. Then, with ceremony, they present their Mother’s Day cards. With glitter and glue, yarn and paint, each card is unique, thanks to creative teachers at school. I will always treasure the sight of their faces as they proudly pass me pancakes, rubbery eggs, and lukewarm coffee with too much sugar.
Inevitably there is a fight over who gets to sit in bed next to Mom while I try to prevent spilling the coffee. After much preparation and anticipation, they get bored and leave. I am always amazed that I am the one picking up the dishes from the bedroom, not to mention having to clean up the kitchen! But I wouldn’t change one thing about the day. Well, that’s not quite true—maybe one Mother’s Day they will actually let me sleep until noon!
I have collected boxes of homemade cards and gifts from Mother’s Days gone by that I cherish more than anything. Do you remember how, when you were little, you made a card and a clay vase in school for Mother’s Day? To a mother, that crooked vase and smudged card are equal to a diamond bracelet. Mother’s Day reminds us to let our mothers know how truly important they are in our lives. Doing so doesn’t require expensive flowers or fancy gifts. All we have to do is tell our mothers, “I love and admire you, I appreciate you, and I thank you. I know it wasn’t easy.”
Mothers come in all forms: some are biological; some are grandmothers who raised us; some are aunts or neighbors who watched out for our well-being and loved and cared for us. Even if you did not call her Mother, the woman in your life who loved you unconditionally, taught you, punished you, worried about you, laughed and cried with you, and hugged you when you needed it—that woman was a mother to you.
A mother’s love is absolute, pure, and everlasting. Our mothers become the rock on which we stand, the fortress that protects our family, and the strength we thought we did not have. We never outgrow our mothers.
VIE has dedicated the following pages to articles, vignettes, and other musings paying tribute to these amazing people whom we call Mom.
Laurie lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire, with her husband, Rob, and her four beautiful children; she is a daughter of our VIE cover girl and Lisa Burwell’s sister.
The Art of Listening Conversations with Mom
By Lisa Burwell | Photography by Jessie Shepard
How selfless it was of you to listen. I know you had your own worries, cares and insecurities, but you cleared your mind of them for me, and you were always ready and willing to listen when I needed you.
How did you not say, “You’ve told me that story a hundred times before”? How did you have the patience of a saint when I, at the age of seven, was the eldest of six?
How did you work full-time, feed and clothe your family with unwavering perseverance and dignity, all while earning your master’s degree?
How did you know that, by living a faith-filled life, we would learn to trust in God in our own lives and, when faced with adversity, be able to weather any storm?
How did you recognize the teenage angst I was feeling? With so much going on in our family, where did you find the time to write that private note that you put in my lunchbox, letting me know that I was loved and that everything was going to be all right?
How did you start your day at five a.m., making lunches for six children, then head off to work, and not go to bed until after the dinner dishes were done, the laundry was washed and folded, and you had helped me edit my English paper?
Attending field hockey, soccer, basketball, and track meets were as much a part of your life as it was ours. How did you juggle after-school activities with so many kids?
How was it possible that you knew what I was feeling when I went off to college? Living on my own for the first time, I finally realized how much I depended on you. You were always there with a sympathetic ear and much-needed advice.
How was I so lucky to have you as a mother? Our conversations over the years have enriched my life, from our long walks on the beach to dinner conversations and daily phone calls.
Thank you for listening and loving so well. Thank you for empowering me and teaching me how to listen and love. Thank you for loving me unconditionally. You let me know that I could do anything that I put my mind to, and that is one of the greatest of all the gifts you have given to me. With your belief in me, I have been able to believe in myself. I can only hope for many more years filled with our conversations—with me listening more than talking.
I love you, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day!
Keeping Childhood Memories Alive
By Jonita Haynes
Memories are transitory, will-o’-the-wisp things. Some elude us as we try to mentally grasp them, while others pop up when we least expect them. Some we lose entirely; others change as we filter them through time and experiences.
Once, when I was sitting with my mother shortly before her death, she began telling me about a place we had visited one summer. She went into great detail about my behavior, or rather my misbehavior. I thought that her mind had wandered off keel, as I didn’t remember the occasion at all. Several years later, while reminiscing with a friend, I found, to my chagrin, that my recollection of the event did not resemble her memory of it in the slightest way. It was both embarrassing and enlightening.
Most memories of our mothers are really memories of our interactions with them. My mother seldom shared her own childhood and teenage escapades with me, so my memories of her began when I was born, the third of four children, when she was twenty-six years old. Despite my memories of her as a young adult, as psychologists tell us, her personality would have been developed before I was born. I now have a longing to know the details of her childhood: a description of one of her favorite places, memories of her own mother, a recounting of an embarrassing moment, or details of sibling rivalry.
There are several ways to gain insight into our mothers’ early days. Today, a person can search Genealogy.com, Ancestry.com, or RootsWeb.com (a free service) to unearth family lineage. Anyone can peruse family photo albums or discover letters, diaries, or recipes for favorite family dishes. Still, none of those will give a full account of a childhood. For that, we need words. We need the story that happened before and after that picture was taken.
Recounting family stories at holiday gatherings is another way to pass memories between generations. Most families have at least one talented storyteller who keeps that family’s oral history. My brother Jim has that distinction in our family. He has told some stories so many times that we have names for them.
The problem with relying on family trees, photos, and stories recounted by family members is that none of these is specific to a mother’s childhood experiences. When I tried to find out more about those early years, even my mother’s sister could not remember details. Of course, I could have asked my mother to record her memories, but by the time I had grown old enough to know how important these were to me, I was reluctant to make the request. I don’t think she would have been comfortable doing this anyway. Instead, she kept mementos for her children—first signatures, report cards, valentines, tresses of hair, war ration coupons, and buttons from favorite dresses.
These mementos, stories, photographs, and a very short family tree in the Bible are there for my daughter and grandchildren, who may one day want to examine their maternal ancestry. What is missing are the words that complete the story of my childhood, which was, by most measures, a happy and ordinary one. I grew up in an Alabama farming area that centered around a tiny post office, two feed and seed grocery stores with gas pumps, a grist mill, a school that I attended for twelve years, and—my favorite—a one-room library. Almost all of that is now gone. Before I also lose some of the memories of those days, I will find it enjoyable to relive them as I write them down for my daughter and her children. What I will share will not be a chronological story or a biography. There will be no philosophical musing or moral posturing. Through my writings, they will see my “secret garden,” slide down the barn roof, share Sunday dinner after church, and walk home with me from school on the day I did not get that longed-for valentine. I will capture, as fully as possible, my favorite memories of my childhood as I recall them now, in a willy-nilly fashion, filtered through experience, softened by time, and altered with love.
By Gerald Burwell
Most of us have seen the tattoo, whether in movies, cartoons, or real life: a big, red heart with curled script reading “MOM” that adorns a man’s bicep. I have always wondered at the special bond it must take for a son to make such a public—and permanent—declaration of his love for his mother. In our society, Mother’s Day is perhaps the best and most appropriate time to make this kind of statement. But as I have begun to truly understand my relationship with my own mother, I have realized that perhaps there is a better way to honor her than to get a tattoo.
To honor one’s parents is not just to acknowledge their contributions, but also to recognize the sacrifices that they have endured on behalf of their children. I have always wanted to do something special for my mom on Mother’s Day, but have never reached beyond the traditional card or flowers. I may not be a likely candidate for a tattoo, but now that I am the co-owner of a magazine, I can use ink to honor her in a different way.
I am the youngest of five children, so my mom already had ten years of experience in mothering her brood by the time I was born. For as long as I can remember, she has been the pillar of the household. Even before then, the life experiences she sustained were significant. She survived the loss of both her mother and father. As a young wife, she lived in Saudi Arabia for two years where she gave birth to her first two children, a son and a daughter. Because of my father’s career, the household was uprooted and relocated every eighteen months or so. By the time my mom was forty, she had welcomed three more children and lived in many different places.
In the early 1970s, our family moved back to Saudi Arabia. Since, at that time, the Saudi government did not allow foreigners to attend school in the country past ninth grade, the three eldest children attended boarding schools in Rome, only to be seen at infrequent reunions. Mom adjusted to the new family dynamics while making her home in a foreign, male-dominated society. Throughout the next seventeen years, she remained positive, organized our home, and kept our family on track. She painstakingly sewed Halloween costumes, took care of children with scarlet fever, and baked the best birthday cakes a kid could ever want. As only a mother can be, she was forgiving even when I didn’t deserve it, and firm even when I didn’t think I needed it.
God knows (as do mothers), that there are myriad sacrifices that all mothers must make for their families. While I may not have the tattoo to show it, my mother’s love still has left a permanent mark on me. For all the things that my mother has endured and sacrificed in order to help me grow, I just want to say, “Thanks, Mom!”
You Are My Sunshine
By Crystal Hamon
From the time we utter “momma” and stumble through our first steps, we look to our mothers for guidance. I have gleaned so much of what I know about life from my mom. She wears a lot of hats––wife, mother of three, “Mimi” to two grandchildren, author, pastor, speaker, teacher––just to name a few. Still, she always managed to make each of her kids feel like her favorite. She would sing to me, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…” making me feel like the center of her world. When we were little, and she had to travel for work, she left us handwritten notes and trinkets in brown paper bags—one for each day that she was gone––easing the ache of her absence with the anticipation of daily surprises. Creatively making something difficult fun––she was always good at that.
While she found balance in the various aspects of her own life, she taught me how to live mine. She taught me that a relaxing bath, a cup of tea, a good book, and chocolate go a long way to cure what ails you. Ever the optimist, when problems arose she would say with a smile, “We’re having an adventure!” or “At least it will make a good story someday.” Even when we were little and her grocery budget (including diapers) was $16 per week, she made us feel fortunate.
While raising our family, she pursued a calling in a traditionally male-dominated field, showing me that nothing is unattainable just because I’m a girl. This balancing act was unorthodox for women of her time. Sometimes she jokingly called herself a failure as a mother because domestic skills weren’t her strongest suit. A magnet on her refrigerator reads, “Dinner will be ready when the smoke alarm goes off!” But she selflessly gave me things that I value so much more than a casserole or clean laundry.
She nurtured my intellectual curiosity. When I was little, she told me, “Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions—smart people ask questions.” As I grew and our discussions deepened, she sometimes played devil’s advocate, which drove me crazy! Later, I realized she was teaching me to see from someone else’s perspective. Somehow, she always knew just what to say when I needed to hear it and just how to listen when I needed to talk.
My mom showed me the world in more ways than one. She took me to beautiful, faraway cities, broadening my perspectives, creating great memories, and imparting her adventurous spirit. Even with our jet-setting lifestyle, she kept the climate of our home warm and welcoming. She taught me by example how to face my fears, forgive, and keep bitterness out of my heart. She held me when I cried and comforted me when I was sick. She gave me confidence when I needed it, praised my successes, and inspired me to dream big, telling me, “Baby, you’re worthy of good things.” Her fun-loving personality taught me to laugh at myself and enjoy the little things in life. She showed me how to love and find my way in the world. The compassion, understanding, and faith clearly reflected in her blue-green eyes led me to trust God, look for ways to help others, and live life to the fullest.
She’s one of my best friends and someone who continues to amaze, influence, and inspire me. She lights up my life. She is my sunshine.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mamacita! Thank you for being so wonderful. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you…
By Ann Hartley
My mother, Gay Hall Sudduth, is truly a remarkable woman! After she graduated from college, she and her best friend drove from North Carolina to Panama City, Florida with all their worldly possessions in the back seat of my mother’s car. It was 1948. Once in the “land of eligible men” (so named because of its many Navy and Air Force bases), she met and married my father in 1954. And so, her fairy-tale life began.
My mother is, without a doubt, the most charming Southern woman I know. She exudes grace, elegance and beauty. She is faithful, outspoken, involved, busy, creative, fearless, and the most innovative hostess you will ever know. For over fifty years, her parties have been the talk of Panama City. I have always felt that she was the original Martha Stewart. Mother believes in giving back; she has given much of her life to her community, Florida, and to our great country. She is a rock for many, especially for me. She is exhilarating and lives a full life at the vibrant age of seventy-eight. She is truly happy and satisfied and has lived her life to the fullest extent possible. She really is an example for me and for the many others who admire her.
My mother has always believed in me, trusted me, and pushed me to see what I could make of my life. Her timeless words of wisdom have helped her to navigate her path through life, and have helped me to navigate mine, as well:
“You never know what might happen in your life; ALWAYS be able to support yourself.”
“You might not agree with me, but I intend to let you know how I feel or stand on certain issues.”
“Always be a lady. Always.”
“Give to others—find a way to share your gifts.”
“God didn’t give it all to one person.”
“Don’t share your troubles—your friends will just be glad you have them too.”
“Maintain unique friendships—they will keep you going.”
“Preparation is paramount—DON’T wait until the last minute.”
“You never know when you’ll meet Prince Charming, so always look good.”
“If you don’t know the answer to something look it up—wear out a dictionary.”
Mother is the backbone of our family and is my only remaining parent; I cannot imagine my life without her. She has always encouraged me and my ideas; she has guided and comforted me through childhood, puberty, college, marriage, children, business, middle age, cancer and menopause.
She is effervescent and full of life; I am honored and proud to be her daughter and to be able call her my mother!
You Are My Never-Ending Song
By Lisa Comeau
"My Mom is a never-ending song in my heart of comfort, happiness, and being. I may sometimes forget the words but I always remember the tune.”—Graycie Harmon
How appropriate that I find this quote as I pay tribute to you, the person who I am so incredibly proud to call my mother. From the time I was a young girl, geography has separated us but has not kept us apart. No matter what was going on in my life, I knew you were only a phone call away; and when I needed you, you would come. To this day, that still rings true. That is my comfort.
To witness what you have achieved in your life and career has been inspirational. Your journey has garnered loyal friendships and respect from your peers. The lessons you have taught me and the values you have instilled in me along the way are things I treasure and am grateful for every day. That is my happiness.
Mothers help shape their children and encourage them to learn and grow. Your understanding and support over the years have helped me to live my life with integrity and to value what is important. That is my being.
Happy Mother's Day, “Mum”!
By Eric Shepard
Once I met Jessie, it didn't take long for me to realize that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. Aside from being beautiful, she is smart, strong, artistic and fun. Not surprisingly, all of the things that made me fall in love with Jessie are exactly the things that make her a great mother.
Jessie is what I believe to be the perfect balance of teacher, motivator and friend to our children. She has always had a knack for making learning fun, and we have two very sharp little kids to show for it. The lengths she will go to create some crazy art project for them to do, and the patience with which she helps them, always astounds me.
It is impossible to describe how thankful I am in a few paragraphs. Basically, I find Jessie to be an inspiration. When I watch her with our children, it makes me want to be a better father—and that is all one can really ask for in a partner.
Happy Mother's Day, Jessie. I love you.
— V —