In Honor of my Mom
I often wonder what my kids will remember about their childhood when they are older. Particularly, what will they remember about me as their mom?
As I get older and desire to create memories for my own children, it feels like my brain makes room for those and sacrifices my own memory of the past. Kind of like the scene in Inside Out, when the Bing-Bong disappears from Riley's memory.
For those of you who know my mom, there's things you probably know about her. Things like how much she loves birds, particularly cardinals. She loves everything yellow in her kitchen. She has a loud laugh that you can hear from quite a distance but it's part of who she is. She cannot pass up a good bargain and would be quite content to spend the rest of her days at rummage sales and thrift shops. She's a good listener and won't offer unsolicited advice. She finds joy in the little things and truly loves life. She's a worshiper and a prayer-warrior and loves her children and grandchildren.
Despite my ever-slipping memory, I was thinking this week about some of the random things I remember about my mom from my childhood:
Yard sales were a big deal for us growing up. In the pre-online days, we would just follow random signs that were posted on telephone poles and in yards, often leading to "wild-goose chases."
The only time I ever heard my mom curse was when one of my siblings vomited on the living room carpet. I was equally shocked and amused.
When I was first learning to bake by myself, I made All-Bran muffins one night for dinner (a favorite of my grandma's). I read the lines wrong and when I tasted the batter before I baked them, I realized I had used 1/2 cup of salt instead of 1/2 cup of sugar. Afraid to tell anyone but knowing I had to, my mom just sort of shrugged and dumped it out and said we'd start over. I was so relieved I wasn't in trouble.
I remember the first time I realized my mom couldn't really sing well. She loves to worship and I remember a particular Sunday she was belting out a hymn and it dawned on me she wasn't really in tune. We share the qualities of loving to worship, but not being handed the microphone.
Anytime she wanted to conceal a list, she would write in shorthand. It drove us crazy knowing she could write our Christmas lists and birthday lists and leave it out for all to see and we had no way of knowing what it meant.
If I got sick in the middle of the night, somehow she always knew and would come into the bathroom and help me.
I remember her laying out all the grocery fliers for the week and grabbing her large tan coupon box and she would match coupons to the flyers to get the best deals.
We had this fun box called the "Birthday Box." The lid was wrapped in all kinds of crazy paper and everyone got it on their birthday and it was the best box to open because it was filled with lots of smaller presents. My mom would hide gifts in her closet all year and save many of them for this special box.
I haaaaated it but Sunday mornings would start with Sandi Patty blaring from the speakers and my mom going through the house saying, "Sundaaaaay mooooorning tiiiiime!" I think she did it once and then it just stuck.
As I get older, I realize that while the individual memories are fun, it's harder and harder to remember things from my childhood. As a parent, I sometimes try to create these moments in the hopes that my kids will remember them, but perhaps the things they'll remember, I won't remember at all. Perhaps the snippets of memories they have that are important to them, didn't feel very important to me in the moment.
When we were in the process of selling our house several years ago, I was dreading the task of going through the hundreds of letters and cards I had thrown into a box over the years. But I got sucked into the process, opening and reading and reminiscing.
I found the box of letters that had been sent to me while I was studying abroad in Spain my sophomore year of college. There was a letter from my mom for every week I was there, over four months. Long typed letters, mostly filled with just the everyday stuff that was going on. They meant more to me in that moment than I think they did when they were written. Sitting on my basement floor, I was reminded of how hard that time in my life was. I loved it there so much, I wanted to stay, and I was pretty miserable when I came back. I know I made life difficult for everyone, probably my parents mostly, although I don't remember anything other than being so unhappy and not knowing how to handle it. I remember one morning, my mom came in and sat by the side of my bed. I must have been still asleep or maybe not entirely asleep. She put her hand on my forehead and starting talking. While I don't remember what she said, I remember that she was just as sad as I was, and she just wanted to understand.
I think this illustrates for me that who my mom is to me isn't based on the memories I have of her. It's based on the relationship we have, a relationship that was built on thousands of memories I don't remember. I don't remember if my mom laid with me before I went to sleep when I was little. I don't remember the food that she served (other than we had taco salad before the third-grade spelling bee) or her folding my laundry or reading to me or the games we might have played. I don't remember what kind of cake she baked for my birthdays or even what presents I received. I don't remember our conversations and everything we must have talked about. But in all of her mothering and loving and sacrificing, I knew I was wanted and loved.
When we started making big life-decisions some years ago now, I know not everyone understood. I don't even think my mom understood. But what I know about my mom is that she is a woman of faith. And she takes everything to the Lord. She would send me things that she read that she thought would encourage me, whether they were quotes from books or blog posts or scripture verses or stories. They were always timely. I often read them and cried. Not just because they were spot-on to what we were walking through, but because I knew she was on my side. I knew that she was cheering me on. She encouraged my faith walk by being faithful and humble in her own faith walk.
By her words and actions, my mom shows me how to love my husband. When I was a kid, I remember my dad coming home from work and she was usually in the kitchen making dinner. They would hug and kiss, before he did anything else. I wrote about my dad last year and how he fiercely loves my mom, but the feeling is mutual. My parents will be married 50 years in September and the last 20 or so my mom has shown what "in sickness and in health" looks like. I know I'll never fully understand all the ways she cares for my dad, but I've seen many with my own eyes. She shows what sacrificial, committed love looks like, every day.
If there is one thing and one thing only I could take from my mom as my own, it would be her prayer-warrior status. While I don't remember my mom praying when I was younger, I know she did. I know she prayed over all of us. When she says, "I'll pray for you," she means it. She's going to do it. When I meet the Lord one day, I want to see the record of prayers raised up on my behalf, on my husband's behalf, and on my children's behalf, all from the lips of my mother. I want to see all the times when her prayers made a difference, when the atmosphere shifted and things happened because of what she prayed. And I want to be the same kind of praying mother, for my family and for the world at large.
I know that my role as a mom will change with my own children as they get older. I can already see that happening. Some years ago, my sister and mom and I took a bus trip to a food festival. At one point in the day, she thanked us for hanging out with her and it sort of surprised me. She said, picture Eliana and Sarah (my niece) at your age wanting to hang out with you for the day. While my kids were too young for me at that time to imagine it, I can see now why she said it. I joke with my children all the time that they better want to hang out with us when they're older and they better not move far away and I'm only half-joking. My mom was always so good at letting us do our thing. Even if she struggled with us getting older or moving away, she never showed it. She never pressured us in any way to do anything other than what the Lord wanted for us. I know that is because of her prayer life and because of her faith.
I think being a mom has helped me understand my mom more. What it must have been like when she was raising me, how much she really does love me because I know how much I love my own children. How crazy and amazing it must be to see your grandchildren be born and grow, the flesh of your flesh. The desire to want your children close, but also not wanting to stand in the way of where God wants them. The hope you have for their future and your prayers that they will know and love and serve the Lord. The small glimpses we get everyday of the glorious days we'll one day have in heaven.
My mom is more than just the memories I have of her, more than just 'mom' who raised me and 'mom' who loves me and 'mom' who prays for me. She's my friend.
Happiest Mother's Day, Mom! I love you.