An Obligatory Mother’s Day Post: What My Mother Taught Me

My mother and my son, a few weeks after he was born.

What can I say about mothers that has not already been better said by someone else?  Mothers are the foundation of society.  “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world”  What we know about the world and life we first learned from our mothers.  I am, first of all, very thankful to have a mother who has always emphasized learning and education, who showed me both by her example and her encouragement that gaining and furthering my education were worthy goals.  She taught me to read when I was young and encouraged a love of reading throughout my childhood by reading with me and recommending some of her favorite books.  I have fond memories of long hours spent sitting on the couch, next to my mother, as we were both nose-deep in out own books, enjoying each other’s company as we read.  And there are some books that we have both read and enjoyed that we have discussed together, sparking wonderful conversations.  To this day, there are some characters from some books that feel more like real people, friends that we have both made, about whom we can talk and joke.

And most of my respect for books came from watching my mother and the way she handled the books she owns, especially those books that belonged to her own mother.  Her mother died long before I was ever born, just a few months before my older brother was born, and I’m sure it was hard on my mother to lose her mother at a time in her life when she was coming to understand just how important the knowledge and experience her mother possessed were.  My mother was about as old as I am now, with a two-year old son.  I know how often I have turned to my mother with questions about how to raise my son properly, concerns that perhaps he is not developing correctly, or simply to share the joy I feel with the new things he is learning.  I can’t imagine losing my mother, and not having that connection anymore.  But that is what my mother went through.  I must admit, I don’t remember seeing any pictures of my grandmother growing up, I don’t remember hearing stories about her too often, or anything.  What I do remember are her books.  My mother had a bookshelf in the basement that was full of old books that had belonged to her mother.  She had kept them because of what they meant.  Even the John Steinbeck, even though my mother hates Steinbeck.  And when I went off to college, my mother gave me a copy of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare that had belonged to my grandmother, she had bought it in 1938 when she started high school.  Seeing my mother keep these old books and the way she cared for them taught me a lot about the value of good literature as well as the value of what a mother can leave behind.  Though I hope that day is long off, I know that I will probably get most of my mother’s books when she passes.  I will keep some of them, but I already own some of these books already.  Some I will keep for the sentimental value, but I know that most I will donate to a public or a school library in her name, as she would probably want.

In addition to teaching me how to read and enjoy learning, probably the biggest lesson I learned from my mother was how to work.  My mother was always one of the first to pitch in and do something simply because it needed doing.  I was constantly being volunteered to go mow lawns for the older women from church, we spent countless hours cutting back blackberry vines and trimming bushes.  My mother was not afraid of yard work, though it is funny that our yard was never very neatly kept.   Not that my mother disregarded our own yard, she did not feel it worth the constant effort to maintain when she had children and dogs who tear through it.  we kept the grass mowed, but that was about it, we didn’t plant any flowers or garden or do any fancy landscaping, but I remember hours spent in neighbors’ gardens helping them with the weeding and maintenance that they could no longer do for themselves.  Something my mother did not particularly enjoy doing for herself, she gladly did for someone else.  And though I complained and hated it at the time, being a teenager and sure I could come up with a better use of my time, I am glad that I spent so much time in the service of others, I am glad that I was able to spend so much time with my mother.  And I find that this has developed a strong work ethic in me.  I often find myself thinking that I should do something, simply because I can see that it needs to be done and I know how to do it.  I know I learned that from my mother.

I love my mother.  I am glad that I have such a good relationship with her.  And I am glad that I have her to continue to help me as I now have a family of my own to care for.  What would the world be like without mothers or grandmothers?

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