Sunday, May 9, 2010


It is the second Sunday in May and throughout the country mothers are being honored and remembered.  Flowers are being sent.  Hallmark cards have been received.  Cemeteries are being visited. As I do my daily chores in taking care of my bed-bound mother I cannot  help reflecting on my own mother, the mother from my childhood.

I remember so vividly the warm, loving woman waiting in the kitchen with cookies and milk when the kids came home from school.  The mother that was always there with a kiss, an encouraging word and an "I love you".

Oh?  No.  Those memories are of black & white TV shows I grew up in front of.  Those were Harriet Nelson, Donna Reed, Shirley Partridge, Laura Petrie and Carol Brady.  That was not my mother at all.  The household of my early years more resembled Hazel.  The woman waiting in the kitchen with the cookies and juice was my nanny Kay.  The warm words, hugs, kisses and "I love you" were from my father.  The woman taking me for my first day of school was my aunt Gloria.

My mother wasn't the "warm and fuzzy" type.  She was more like Ms. Ellie from Dallas.  She was a working mom who loved her career as teacher and brought that into the home.  I do not remember my mother [Adelaide] ever really treating us as children.  We were treated in much the same way she treated her high school students, with respect and encouragement.

My mother's lack of "warm and fuzzy" is not to be mistaken for a lack of love.  There was plenty of love from  both parents and from "second mom" Aunt Gloria who lived with us.  Adelaide just was not demonstrative.  Some people are "huggers" and some are not.  She was not.  Mom was also not to be misconstrued as cold.  She just showed her love in her own way.

After my father passed away, when I was ten, my mother and I naturally grew closer.  Some of that is because I was now a precocious brat acted more like an adult than a kid.  Some is because we had both lost Pat [the demonstrative one] and need each other more.  Mostly because we liked each other. I am the youngest of three.  There are quite a few years between between me and my siblings. My brother was married.  My sister was plunged into her career and busy dating. I was home.

Something else transformative happened that summer of my tenth year.  My mother and I began to travel.  My mother was a foreign language and history teacher who, at fifty, had never been out of the United States. This was about to change.  To help fill the void left from my father's death and for diversion, a group of us went to Europe.  There were seven of us family members roaming together through England, France and Italy.

"There is no looking at a building here after seeing Italy."
fanny burney

This was an amazing experience for both of us.  One that we would repeat every summer until I was in college.  We traveled.  We explored.  She taught.  I learned.  Adelaide got to see all the places she had read about and studied and taught for so many years.  I got to learn history and culture and languages in a way that you can only get from being there.  We bonded.  

To this day I can't see an image of some foreign landmark or visit a museum or hear opera without thinking of all those trips with mom.  That was the best thing anyone could have ever done for me.  

Now our roles are reversed.  I'm the "mother" taking care of her.  I talk to her about current affairs.  I reminisce and remind her of those trips we shared and sights we saw.  I throw in some French and Italian phrases.  I do it all in hopes that somewhere deep inside it conjures a memory for her.  She smiles and we laugh and not a day goes by that I don't tell her that I love her.  

Mothers come in all flavors.  I think the most difficult thing for children [of any age] to accept is that parents are human with faults and flaws.  We don't have TV parents.  No matter what, mom is always mom.

Happy Mother's Day!


  1. why am I crying - that was a beautiful tribute to your mom.

  2. Lori Blackman McDonaldMay 9, 2010 at 8:03 PM

    So lovely, Christopher. Tears here too after a conversation with my Mom this afternoon, wherein she asked me if I knew who she was. I sure do...and reminded her as well. I'll always remember what a great Mom she is and was, and she was neither Donna Reed or June Cleaver.

  3. Just beautiful, Christopher. This was my first Mother's Day without my mom or my mother-in-law, and while neither was a TV mom, they showed their love in so many ways and they were both interesting and fun. And they were our moms. Please give Addie a hug and kiss for me.

  4. Wonderful, Chris!