After the Fact: Happy Mothers’ Day

Mothers. We all have one. Some are better than others, some should never have been mothers, some raised children that were not their own, and some became school teachers so they could have multitudes of children. All are overworked, underpaid and appreciated not nearly enough.

But there is that one day in May when offspring of all ages order flowers through Teleflora or pick dandelion bouquets, send Hallmark cards or paste together construction paper greetings, take mom to I Hop for breakfast or burn a two-pack of toast for breakfast-in-bed. As with most holidays, we spend less time and more money when we become more occupied with jobs and social affairs, events or activities. I was sorely tempted to take the easy way out, buying cards at Dollar Tree for my great-granddaughter Patience to give to her mother and grandmother: my days as an art teacher are comfortably at rest in the “long ago.” Maybe it’s that I don’t want to feel really over-the-hill, but more likely, I’m a sucker for getting out the paints and glue and glitter, so Patience and I will be making Mothers’ Day cards again this year. And making Pillsbury cinnamon rolls for brunch. Even though my toaster plays the “Winnie the Pooh” song when the toast is done, I draw the line at blackened bread.

My dad loved to eat; his mother loved to cook. But he married my mom, either hoping for some miraculous transformation or thinking time and encouragement would bring out the hidden homemaker. She could, after all, boil water. Her first pie was a give-away.  Literally. It should have been given away. The crust was light and flakey and the sight must have raised his spirits, until he had that first bite. Mom didn’t know that cherries needed to have the pits removed before cooking. And, unlike her own mother, my mom didn’t sew, but she did manage, through five kids, to keep the house clean if not always uncluttered by toys and school projects. One year, every window sill in the house was occupied for over a month by assorted crystals growing for my sister Micki’s science fair entry.

Mom’s “failures” were not important. After all, the fire department knew exactly where we lived and there was a hydrant in the front yard. Micki and I were sent to cooking classes and to the Singer Sewing school to offset the absence of motherly instruction.  But my mom taught us to read. My mom taught us all to love reading. And she sang.  And didn’t discourage any of us from singing along, even though no one ever asks for an encore. Micki and I had an extensive repertoire of songs from the 30’s and 40’s and would entertain our children frequently with duets for any occasion. They thought we were enormously talented until they broadened their horizons in kindergarten. 

My niece Lori Ann complained more than the rest about the all-occasion musical entertainment until one day, as she was driving across a bridge, she realized she was singing, “Old Man River.” How many teens from the ‘90’s have even heard that classic piece of music from “Showboat”? I wouldn’t hazard a guess how few teens today would know any of the great songs from those fabulous Broadway musicals.

And mom wrote songs. Our “theme song” for Girl Scout day camp one year was “The Lazy Lizards,” music and lyrics by Dorathy Morgan, my mom. It probably wouldn’t win a Grammy, but there are at least a dozen senior ladies from my home town who’d remember it, former Girl Scouts like Donna Brown and Patty Newell and Patsy Wilder.  And my little brother, Lonny.

That we ate a lot of “burnt offerings” over the years was totally compensated by all the fun things we did with our mom, from swimming and skiing to singing Christmas carols in front of neighbors’ houses and doing crafts projects that could have set the kitchen on fire, but didn’t. My mom was one who maybe should have had more children, but I’m sure glad she didn’t. I never did learn to do the “sharing thing” very well.