Write about a mother. Any mother. All kinds of mothers.
A mother I’d known and loved and admired for several once invited me to walk with her friends up along the east bench just under the mountains. They were a generation further down the path yet they allowed my inexperienced and naive self in their magnificent presence (juxtaposed against the magnificent presence of Mt. Timpanogos). She once supported me through a difficult choice I’d made. And then, after being tossed by the spirit through the night, urged me the next day to reconsider, even as I had my own second thoughts.
A mother I’d never met calmly listened as I burst into tears the moment I heard her voice on the phone and then invited me to her home–again, nestled at the feet of Mt. Timpanogos–where she gave my 4th-child-week-overdue swollen feet a massage and told me things about myself she had no way of knowing. This mother has the knack of reappearing in my life in nurturing, healing ways–at the most opportune moments. Once taking a solid preemptive strike to bear me up before a tidal wave of grief buried me. Later reminding me to be gentle with myself when I was knocked to my knees with yet another wave of grief.
A mother loves my babies as if they were her own, being the one safe place to leave them in a time of critical illness and uncertainty. This is the same mother who invites all the kids to her children’s birthday parties for fear that any feel unwelcome of left out. The rare kind of mother with whom one can share one’s deepest heartaches and also one’s greatest joys. With whom you take turns holding on to hope when children you bore and whom you love more than anything choose another path.
A mother who, when in the throes of nearly every trial imaginable with her own beloved children keeps reminding you above all else, “Preserve the relationship.” A refrain that plays through your head over and over again years later when you are barely hanging on by a thread. A refrain that reminds you to choose your battles. To bite your tongue. To drag your war-torn self out to another game, event, or outing even when it’s least appreciated or you have the most to do, because you know the value of being there for your children in whatever way they will allow you to.
A mother who puts sheets out for the neighborhood kids to build tents and forts in the cool shade of the walnut trees on her front lawn. Who once carefully pulled tweezers from deep out of your child’s knee. Who wisely advised you when to spend money you didn’t really have on a doctor’s visit for your sick or wounded child and when to save your pennies because everything was going to be ok so often that your children, when given the option, always asked for her by name before accepting your proffered remedy.
Motherhood is the job for which you receive no training. A job that changes with each new age and stage. And then turns on its head with each new child so you find yourself deep in the arc of a new learning curve every passing day. A job that never ends. A job you show up for even when you’re sicker than a dog or have endured yet another sleepless night.
It takes a village. We tend to each other, to one another’s children. To the child in each of us who is still unsure, hurt, or even afraid. It’s just what we do.
[Day 116 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]