Saturday, May 8, 2010

MOM

Mom was happy-go-lucky, always bubbling with humor, and invested with a practical-joker streak which, given her pious demeanor, could—and often did—catch you by surprise if you weren’t paying attention.
One of my very earliest memories is of a Saturday afternoon, not long after my third birthday, during a family outing to a favorite woods near Twin Creek. It was late spring. Dad decided to head downhill and fish. Mom and I stayed near the car. She sat on a log while I toddled about, plucking wildflowers and playing in the damp leaves.
After a while, Mom called me over and asked if I’d like a cookie. When I nodded, she reached into her purse and proffered a yellow-and-black treat—which I opened wide to accept. The tiny box turtle, scarcely larger than a silver dollar, stuck its head from its carapace a millisecond before entering my mouth—just in time for me to catch a glimpse of its dragon-like countenance.
The unexpected sight sent me into a screaming fit—part terror, part rage, but mostly frustration over being denied the promised cookie. My howling wails so tickled Mom that she fell off the log amid gales of laughter, while bringing my father huffing up the hill to deal with whatever trauma had instigated such a clamor.
The baby box turtle was eventually released unharmed, though my ego never quite recovered. And fifty-odd years later, Mom still got a kick and a laugh out of teasing me about the “turtle-cookie” incident. Humor, laughter, and fun, Mom taught me, should always be a part of all life—and by extension, part of the outdoors.
My father, while not overly serious, was at least generally thoughtful, more contemplative. A scholar and logician. Dad was the nuts-and-bolts guy, the one who taught me the mechanics and technicalities of fishing for crappie, hunting gray squirrels, digging sassafras, tying a trout fly, fashioning an axe handle, or skinning out a muskrat. Mother, on the other hand, tended more towards guiding my attitude—though she also enriched my education by instructing me in such outdoor practicalities as cooking dandelion greens, frying catfish, canning blackberry preserves, or using the walnuts we gathered each fall to bake a flavorful cake delicious beyond description.
Like my father, Mom grew up on a farm in eastern Kentucky. She hoed corn on the hillsides. Read by the light of a coal oil lamp. Cooked on a woodstove. She knew how to butcher a hog, can peaches, churn butter, and spin sheep’s wool into thread which could then be put on a loom and turned into cloth. Mom loved the country, country ways, and country people. She loved telling and hearing stories. And throughout her ninety-four years of life, she never wavered in this love of the hills and its simple, honest values.
Mom taught me to love and understand old times, old ways, old places and things. She also taught me to appreciate beauty.
“Listen to that redbird sing,” she’d say, a hundred times each year. Her face would radiate the joy she found in the bird’s sprightly song. Should the brilliant cardinal alight within sight, perhaps in the middle of Mom’s favorite window-side rose tangle, her happiness was increased exponentially.
Mom found beauty in everything from wildflowers to sunsets, singing birds, buzzing bees, the hoot of and owl or a croaking frog. She liked hearing rain on the roof and the growl of thunder off in the distance. She loved fall’s patchwork colors. New snow. Lightening bugs twinkling a summer meadow. Fragrant apple blossoms in the spring.
“There’s beauty everywhere,” Mom said. “Just look around.”
Parents are like ears, in that we each receive a pair without any choice whatsoever in the matter. I was the luckiest kid in the world, blessed beyond measure in my gift of parents…and the older I get, the more apparent this fact becomes.
I was born on a Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day. Mom always claimed I was her Mother’s Day present. “The best-ever gift,” she said.
Personally, I think I got the better deal. Mom’s spirit was indomitable. Her joy irrepressible. Her love immeasurable. She taught me attitudes and values which still shape and enrich my life and outdoor experience every single day.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you with all my heart. Miss you every single day. Appreciate all you did—the tears you shed and sacrifices you made.
More than anything in this world, Mom, I’m honored and forever thankful to be your son.
———————

22 comments:

George said...

A nice tribute to your mom, Grizz, one that many of us can relate to. Having a passion for book-learning, it's sometimes all too easy to forget the great education and values that I received from my parents before I even discovered books.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

George…

Though my father was the one with the college degree—the school teacher, carpenter, guitar maker, botanist, and one of the smartest men I've ever known—Mom was really the one who instilled in me my lifelong love and passion for books and reading. Mom began reading to me before I was a year old. We had lots of books around the house, many of the classics, a few of which might be termed "children's books." Mom read those, and she also bought dozens of actual children's books at the dime stores and such. My aunts and uncles and grandparents bought books for me, too. Mom read to me several times every day and always in the evening, while Dad read the paper. I was reading on my own pretty well, and hooked on books, long before I started kindergarten.

Too, I was a desperately sick child—lucky to have lived, in fact—and during my grade school years spent more time at home, too ill to sit up, than at school. I had a home teacher for my third grade year. Mom waited on me hand and foot, and I'm sure I wouldn't have lived without her prayers and care.

Mom would often get on the trolly (Mom never had a driver's license) and take the bus downtown to the library, where she'd pick up a shopping bag full of books for me to read. She did this at least weekly, sometimes twice in the same week. Reading was the only thing I could do to pass the time. The city library issued me an "adult" library card when I was 6 years old, because I'd already literally read my way through the children's department. And Mom would have librarians help her pick out novels and biographies they thought I might like. So I read stuff like Tom Sawyer, the Mysterious Island, Zane Gray, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc. from about 6 years old onward—always (and still!) looking for more and more writers to entertain, interest, educate me…and it is all because my wonderful, wonderful mother introduced to books. I can't tell you how grateful I've been for that, and for her, and for all those bus rides—nearly an hour each way—for years on end, in all sorts of weather, just to bring me books to read.

Debbie said...

What a wonderful tribute to your mother, something we moms all hope we hear someday. Blessed you are!
Debbie

Rowan said...

What a lovely tribute to your mother, I would feel I'd succeeded in life if my children were to think of me like that when I'm no longer here. Our Mother's Day was in March but I don't need a special day to remember mine, she was my friend and companion when she was alive and I feel so lucky to have had her for my mum.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

You brought tears to my eyes with this tender tribute to your dear mother. You certainly were blessed and it is evident in the person you are. What they gave you lives on and is shared so generously and beautifully here. I think I owe a debt of gratitude to your mother and father!

She could butcher a hog!!! In with all her other traits and skills, that one jumped out and astounds me. Quite a woman.

Tramp said...

Grizz
Full of feeling. It brings back so many memories for me...Tramp

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ_

Oh my, such a wonderful tribute and honoring of your Mom and all that she stood for in her 94 years of life and yes, you are blessed to have such wonderful words to be able to write in memory of your Mom - and may I add - you are a wonderful son - a good man -

Love Gail
peace.....

Wanda said...

I think I love your mother too, Grizz!
...Wanda

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Debbie…

I did have wonderful parents. I think knew to some extent at the time. Yet the older I get, the more I realize how truly wonderful and amazing they both were, and how fortunate I was to have them.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

I feel the same way about my Mom. She was the very best. If I manage to be half as good in my life, I'd be satisfied. Mom was a treasure.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bonnie…

You have to understand the time and place where my parents were raised—a different era, different culture, different world.

There were no cars. Roads were dirt, or hip-deep mud if it had been raining. You rode a horse or mule to town, miles away—or walked. Sometimes you took the wagon if you were carrying barrels of corn to be ground into meal at the mill, or were buy a 50 or 100 pound barrel of flour. Not one of my grandparents (all born in the 1870s) ever owned an automobile. Mom walked 3 miles to school each way every day. Both my parents grew up growing or raised all their food, making most of their clothing (often making the cloth itself) canning, butchering, drying, or smoking to preserve.

Mom wouldn't have killed a hog—that was a man's job—but she certainly helped scald, skin and quarter, cut into hams and roasts, slabs of bacon, which got hung in the smokehouse and cured for winter fare.

By the standards of their neighbors (Mom and Dad grew up on farms in two adjacent counties, about 15 miles apart as the crow flies; both were part of large families) they were fairly well off and well educated—many family members being school teachers, school superintendents, county officials, ministers, judges.

It was a life often thought to have disappeared before the turn of the century-before-last, but which actually still going fairly strong prior to WWII. Mom had seen and done all sorts of things we moderns consider as belonging to early pioneers—and yet by the time Mom was born in 1911 (Dad in 1908) their families had been settled in that country for over a century and a half!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Tramp…

Full of feelings for me, too…and I hope any memories I've stirred in you were good ones.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Thank you, as always. They were great parents—though I don't believe I'll ever come within sight of them when it comes to quality, if I'm being truly honest with myself. But I try, because I think decency and honor and compassion matter.

Bernie said...

Grizz, how I love to hear your wonderful words describing your mom, you really described your relationship with her Grizz. No one will ever love us like our mothers do/did.....ever.....:-)Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

You would have taken to her—and she to you—from the get-go. You'd have had so much fun talking flowers and birds, canning, cooking (bet you;d have loved her apple stack cake!) hearing some of the old tales, listening to her play the pump organ and sing the ballads and hymns she knew so well. Mom was genuine, and up to the day she died, folks would stop and visit with her, share a laugh…then come away and tell me I had the most wonderful mother in the world.

Of course I knew that already, but I'd nod and thank them—and then thank God because I knew it was true.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

You're right, I don't think anyone will—or could—love me the way Mom did. A mother's love is truly special….

The Solitary Walker said...

A warm and moving appreciation, Grizz. Mothers are special. I think of mine most days, and miss like mad her physical space in my life. But she's there in my heart.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

I know I was lucky to have my mother around so long…but I wish she could be here still to see and enjoy with me the flowers and beauty of this river, to sit on the deck and watch the water slip along and hear the birds singing on this fine May morning.

Wanda said...

Your mother's apple stack cake would most likely be like my
grandmother's in Virginia and my g'g'mother had a pump organ in a mysterious dark back room(no electricity or plumbing to her house on the hilltop. There I learned of water dippers, root cellars, fresh churned butter on biscuits and cornbread, feather beds, wood stoves, porch swings and unpainted houses.
All good memories!
...Wanda

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

Sounds like you know exactly…and they are, indeed, all wonderful memories. A time that seems so impossibly long ago—and as fresh as yesterday.

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

I missed commenting on your lovely Mom's Day post and enjoyed reading it a second time as much as the first!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Teri…

Thank you…that is a lovely comment, and I appreciate it very much. I write this blog, really, to share with the hope that others receive pleasure from the words and photos. I'm especially pleased you read the piece twice—and still liked it. I had a wonderful mother; a true blessing.