Thursday, April 07, 2016

The Mothers Before Us

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on March 13, 2016. 

This past week after a funeral, as we were standing in the foyer, Sis and I had a moment. And I’ve been thinking about this ever since.

Without taking her eyes off Mom who was visiting with people as they came out of the chapel, Sis said, “You know…we had such amazing female role models growing up. I wonder sometimes if I measure up. Am I being the same kind of role model for our girls? Like the ones we had?”

She spoke out loud what has gone through my head and heart on many occasions. Am I doing a good job? Am I messing up? Have I taught them enough? And if I haven’t, is it too late? Did I ever get around to teaching Abby how to make gravy before she moved out??? (I don’t think I did!)
We both looked at Mom who was presently patting the back of a white-haired woman, smiling her beautiful smile, and agreeing that the service was truly a wonderful tribute. And tears welled up in my eyes.

Granny Glenn was eccentric, but she was the best person to go to for advice on homeopathic medicine and she believed tea tree oil could cure anything. Memaw was sick most of my life, but the stories I have heard tell about a hard working farmer’s wife who endured so much and loved her family. And she always smiled when she saw us, no matter how sick she was. Nana was a staunch Republican who spoiled her grandkids, salted everything she put in her mouth, and would call you on your birthday and sing to you whether you wanted her to or not. There was the aunt who fielded questions about mysterious rashes when Abby was little, and the one who made a bikini out of fabric scraps so I could swim in the wheelbarrow. The aunt who once told me to “never worry about how you look when you’re around family. We all love you and will always love you no matter what.” The three English teachers – Reid, Enoch, and Sharbutt – who instilled in me a love for words as a teen. Ella Lou Reynolds and Helen Merit were ever-present guides at Hudson Creek Baptist Church who taught us that you love the church because God loves you. And you didn’t dare run in the sanctuary when those two ladies were around.

There was a tribe of so many women who shaped my mother into who she is and she – and a whole slew of women – in turn shaped my sister and me to be who we are. And now Heather and I are muddling through this thing called Motherhood. Surely all those women before us had doubts, too?
No mother is perfect, but if Mom ever had doubts about her ability to raise us girls, she never showed it. She was always so confident and always had all the answers. Heck, she still has all the answers. Maybe I am too honest with my girls because I just flat-out tell them: “I don’t have a clue. Call your Gram.” That works for hemming pants. And how to fix decorator icing that won’t hold its shape. And how to handle your child who sometimes cries more than she breathes. Oh wait, that one is ME calling her for advice.

My daughters and nieces are wonderful. Sure, they act goofy sometimes. Sure, they sometimes decide to get married and give you seven days to plan it. Sure, they sometimes run out of gas, forget to unload the dishwasher, and can never, ever, EVER make it out of the house on time, but they are good girls. They’re smart, kind, respectful, honest, trustworthy, and so much more.

I hope Mom is proud of how we are raising our girls. I hope she’s proud of them as women. I hope she’s proud of me. Even when I take my crying 14 year old to her and “suddenly remember that I need to go to Walmart.” 

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