Sunday, May 11, 2014

Lessons from Mom

Dad, Mom, and me at  Macbeth's Log Cabins, Cook Forest, Pa., 1959

Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and often thought about them. – Luke 2:19 (TLB)

One summer day when I was quite young, my mother was hosing off the sidewalk beside the house and accidently sprayed a bird. Now, birds are a dime a dozen, right? What’s one less bird in the scheme of things? But she was so distraught, she cradled the little thing in her cupped hands, praying it would survive. I don’t remember whether or not it did, but I do remember her distress. Her compassion that day taught me that all creatures matter
Then there was the time she caught me behind the sofa pretending to smoke one of her cigarettes.
“If I catch you again,” she warned, “I’m going to light it.”
“You go right ahead,” I said.
When I finally caught my breath after gagging over the kitchen sink for an eternity, I determined I would never smoke. And I never have. But what would have been the outcome if she hadn’t made good on her warning? She taught me to follow through, to do what you say you’re going to do, even when it’s difficult.
Then there was the time I invited the entire class to my house one Saturday for my birthday party – and didn’t tell her. I knew she’d say no, and I really, really, really wanted a party like all the other kids had.
I bowled on Saturday mornings, and that day I plodded home, worried that I’d become the laughing stock of the class when they showed up to my nonparty. But the house was decorated and a large cake adorned the table. Mom had discovered my chicanery – and I didn’t get grounded for life, either. That day I learned what mercy was.
Fast forward about a dozen years. Mom and I were flying to Alabama to spend Christmas with my brother. For the trip I dressed in a red velour miniskirt and matching short-waist top, stockings and dress shoes. Since my brother was deprived of the Slovak dishes he grew up on, Mom took a casserole full of frozen homemade pierogies. Somehow I became the guardian of the goodies. Perhaps the image of my bird-like, aging mother lugging a lump of frost from Pittsburgh to Montgomery overcame my need to appear chic.
In Atlanta we had to rush to get to the next gate in time. Somewhere between Eastern and Delta I realized my carefully donned image was gone with the wind. I learned more than one lesson that day: to dress for the occasion, wear comfortable clothes when traveling, and that a mother’s love transcends everything – even practicality.
More images flood my mind: Mom, dish towel thrown over her shoulder, singing next to the piano, her foot tapping the hardwood floor while my sister played a tune she loved. She taught me music is a balm to the soul, a buffer in the storms of life.
I remember her lighting a vigil light daily and praying after she’d hung the laundry on the outside line, “God, don’t You let it rain.” She taught me that faith makes a difference even in the little, day-to-day things.
I could go on, but one column isn’t enough to even begin to describe all she taught me by just being herself.
How blessed I am!

Thank You, God, for my mother and the lessons she taught me, even if she did embarrass me at times. Amen.
Special-Tea: Read Deuteronomy 6:6–7


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