Weekend Wrinkle: The ‘Mom Effect’

Mom and Me 1960
Mom and I at the beginning of our journey together.

Writers are always complaining about how difficult a job it is to write, and believe me, it’s no cakewalk.  Yet there’s a job that is infinitely harder – raising a child.

There’s no Roget’s or Strunk & White or Chicago Manual of Style that shows us how to shape the future of a child. Even if there were, no child is like another, so it wouldn’t work anyway.

Mothers have a unique bond with their children, a mysterious link often (but not always) forged in the womb. It is a humbling feeling to know that what you do will affect what kind of person a little human will become; that this calling (I can’t really call it a “job”) – with endless overtime, no sick leave, no vacation, and definitely no hazard pay – will deeply affect the way a child sees the world.

Mom and Me

Mother’s Day is Sunday, and my mother has been on my mind all week. I have a reservoir of childhood memories. I remember the oddly comforting smell of coffee combined with cigarettes. I remember being taught to catch fireflies in a jar in the summer – then letting them go. I remember hikes in the “woods” and discovering insects, animals, birds, and plants.

I remember my mother putting our feet in bread bags before putting our boots on then smearing our faces with Vaseline as she sent us out for a day of fun in the snow. I remember changing into dry, warm pajamas on our triumphant return and feasting on hot soup and sandwiches. (If we were lucky, we’d get hot chocolate, too!)

I remember her reading to me and teaching me to read. That was one of her greatest gifts. I can remember her taking me to the library. I remember her irritation when she caught me reading instead of cleaning my room. (I did that a lot!)

But there was more. There was her expectation for academic excellence. There was no question that I should always do my best. I never, never wanted to disappoint her.

As I became an adult, my mother provided the best sounding board. I can remember fits of crying during high school frustrated about how I didn’t fit in anywhere. I can remember complaining about how my own parenting efforts seemed fruitless. I can remember being lost in grief and desperately looking for an emotional anchor when my husband died.

Through all that, my mother listened – without criticism, without offering solutions, often without comment. She was just a sympathetic, often empathetic, ear. She was all that I needed.

Other ‘Moms’

The older I get, the more I realize that so many other women – motherly figures if not mothers themselves – influenced me.

My grandmother was my “pal” growing up. She instilled a love of cooking and baking. My aunts showed me how sisters relate to each other. Each taught me something: Aunt Mamie, how to laugh at life; Aunt Annie, how to explore faith and spirituality; Aunt Betty, how to act professionally and preservere; Aunt Sadie, how to love nature and not worry if people think I’m a little odd.

My supply of motherly figures doesn’t stop at relatives. I have many women friends – both older and younger than I – that continue to teach me life lessons: Brouge, the benefits of honesty and generosity as well as the steadfastness of friendship; Mrs. R, how to strive for excellence and be a buffer for others; BERL, how to get off my butt and have adventures.

The Cycle of Motherhood

Sometimes, when my daughter calls me to tell of her latest exploits in parenting, I can’t help but flash back to those calls I made to my mom.  All those trials and triumphs I shared with my mom are coming full circle.

This “Mom Effect” that I’ve experienced over the years influences my writing voice and my viewpoint. How can it not? I tap into all these gifts I’ve received every time I sit at a keyboard or put pen to paper.

So, to all the women out there (mothers all, if not necessarily in the traditional sense), the daughter of Pauline, granddaughter of Santa, and mom of Mandy would like to wish you a beautiful Mother’s Day.