On the news tonight, I saw a two-month old baby gorilla, Arlene, wallowing all over her mother. The correspondent mentioned that baby Arlene always stayed very close to her mother. Even in the few seconds the camera stayed tight on the pair, it was clear that the baby felt that she could roll and climb all over her mother with the greatest of confidence and ease, innately knowing that she was safe; her net would be there should she fall.
Long after that fleeting segment melted off the screen and on to the usual unrest and toll of doom for the day, that scene stayed with me. I started thinking about the ‘roles’ we are given or choose to play in life. Sure, there will always be the mothers who eat their young (I am referring mostly to animals here), the mothers who neglect, mentally/physically harm, or ultimately abandon their offspring. Everyone gets that, tragic and unspeakable as it is, these acts occur in life. They pale by far, however, in number to the mothers who respect, nurture, and love. Notice that I did not specify that they can only extend the respect and love to their offspring because I think that would be inaccurate and short-sighted. There are countless women in the world who give these gifts to anyone who needs them, related or not.
Today is Mother’s Day. I have always loved this day. I love that a moment is taken to give a nod to the special women who have been given the role or chosen to take on the role of ‘mother’. Nothing is taken away from any other role played by others; children have their role, as do fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, etc. This is just a day to celebrate the gift of mothers. Like a stone tossed onto the smooth surface of water, it has the ripple effect.
Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate so many people. Honestly, I have always cringed when I would hear the often repeated phrase, “She is not my mother.” Personally, I find the word ‘mother’ on equal footing as ‘love’. To me, this day does not compartmentalize or use strictures. Rather, it embraces. It gives us a chance to celebrate women who love their children, others’ children, or just have that gift to make children feel safe and that they have ‘come home’. So many of us have role models, women who have impacted our lives, women who have taken us by the hand to guide or taken the hand away to let us fly. These are qualities that should never go unacknowledged. If done correctly, or to the best of one’s ability, they can be life saving and life changing.
I am going to take this opportunity to honor my mother, Betty Horner. She is, without a doubt, the person who has had the single largest influence on my life. She is ‘everywoman’. Let me briefly explain.
My mother was born in 1929, right at the start of the Great Depression. Like most American families, they had next to nothing, monetarily. What they lacked in money and possessions, however, they more than made up with love. Mother’s family was very close, the siblings especially so, and that is how they remained until, one by one, they have been separated by death. She was born into a time of traditional family values and she has marched through each decade with its changing times and points of view with the knowledge that no matter what was popular or trending, she knew right from wrong. She raised my sister and me the same way. We may not have completely understood the reasons behind the rules, but we, too, knew right from wrong. That simplified things considerably.
Though that may make her appear black and white, that is far from the truth. She is quite the eclectic mix. While very strict, Mother always knew the right time to bend. While steadfast and steeped in her faith, she never comes off ‘preachy’ or judgmental. Without straying from the path of right, she can be somewhat irreverent and hilarious. Her sense of humor is legend, much to her chagrin (since I have a tendency to share her stories)!
She is the best of us. Here she is, eighty-six in June, and by golly, she has earned the right to rest easy! Our family, however, did not get that memo. One by one, we have brought our messes, our mistakes, our tragedies, home and laid them at her feet. Quite frankly, our hot mess of a family would have broken most octogenarians, but not my mother. She has placed her well-worn and tired hands on our faces, looked us into our eyes, and said, “God knows. He is aware of our mistakes. Take them to Him. Always, take them to Him and He will guide you.” She has never judged us; rather, she would always say that it was not her place to do so. Instead, she welcomed us back, warts and all, to be enveloped into her loving embrace. She is, indeed, the best of us.
My father had his special role in my life, as did my sister. But it was always my mother to whom I turned. Many of us wonder from time to time why things happen to us the way they do. We question ‘why?’ But this is how I look at life. We may not always understand, well, actually, we probably will not understand the rules of life. But God does. We have the gift of choice, certainly, but I believe God puts people in our lives who will cross our paths just when we need them most, if we will let them. I did not grow up having many friends, but I was given a mother who would love me and let me be me, whether it made me popular or not. She has always been so wise. I grew up knowing who I was and knowing that I could make it standing on my own, and she let me do that.
Mother is not just my rock; she is the foundation of this family. Each generation has known that he or she can confide in her and she will not always condone, but will always love. I look at her sometimes and I think, “How did one person manage to hold that bottomless well of love and forgiveness?” I am still trying to keep up, but I fall short. She is a tough act to follow, folks, but I am trying.
Happy Mother’s Day, my precious mother. I love you without end and admire you without limits. I will always believe that God looked down and said to Himself that this girl will need A LOT, so I will give her Betty Martin Horner. I am forever grateful that He did.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who, on some level, have children in your lives. Bless you. Please know that as long as you lead with love, you will do someone a great deal of good. Whether you know it or not, you are appreciated.