Growing up under the care of a good mother is one of life’s great blessings.
I have enjoyed that blessing all my life. Even though she died more than a decade ago, the lessons my mother taught me continue to enrich my life.
I grew up in the Midwest Bible Belt during the 1950s and ‘60s, and received the usual admonitions to be honest, work hard, do my best, care about others and help those in need.
But today I’m thinking about some of the more interesting lessons I learned from Mom.
Here are five:
- Have fun. My early childhood memories are memories of fun – "swimming" in the lake together. She would carry me out until we were in water that was way over my head. She’d hold me until I felt brave. Then she’d have me lie across her outstretched arms and paddle. Eventually, she’d drop her arms and I’d be in the water paddling away. If I got scared, she’d hug me to her and we’d laugh and splash in the sunshine.
- Read. It’s fun. Whenever she wasn’t working or cooking or cleaning house, she was reading. She always carried a book with her and used spare minutes to read a few pages. The books were usually about American history. She loved to read aloud. Some of my favorite memories are of her reading to us from "Little House in the Big Woods," "Little House on the Prairie" or another Laura Ingalls Wilder book.
- It’s fun to learn. My mother made sure each of us kids had music lessons. When I was interested in rocks, she wrote to her friends all over the country, asking them to send me a little stone from their area along with information about that particular kind of rock. From her many friends, I learned a lot about rocks – from gypsum to quartz to sandstone to turquoise.
- It’s fun to try new things. I remember when my sister was just a toddler, how Mom taught her to harmonize. My little sister would sit on mother’s lap, and announce a song she wanted to sing. Then mother would hum a note. "That’s my note," she’d say. Then she’d hum another note. "That’s your note," she’d say. And my sister would hum her note back. Then the two of them would sing the song in two-part harmony. They practiced over and over until my sister had mastered the art of harmonizing.
Mom, herself, was a constant example of trying new things. At the age of 39, she returned to school and became a nurse. She worked for years at Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan. (I’ve posted her story on my website: sunnylockwood.com. It’s called "The Liberation of My Mom.") Later in life, she became an activity director at a retirement center.
She was active in the League of Women Voters. When I was small, she led my Brownie troop and my Girl Scout troop. She was active in the church and at the school. After she and my father retired, she organized weeklong road trips for other retirees.
- Do what you love. When my brother wanted to join the gospel group Heritage Singers, my parents encouraged him, even though it meant leaving college after only one year. When I wanted to write, Mom expressed nothing but pride in my work, even though her friends were aghast that I wasn’t pursuing a more traditional and secure path.
Mother loved people and they loved her. At her funeral, at least 10 people told me that she was their best friend. I could go on and on about all I learned from her. And that seems appropriate, since we are in the Mother’s Day time of the year. But I’ll spare you, except to say …
When I read about mothers who beat or abandon or kill their children, when I hear about mothers who fill their children’s lives with misery or mothers who are so damaged by alcohol or drugs that they can’t begin to parent, I realize how precious my mother was. And I am grateful.
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