Even as I sit here in my kitchen on a warm night in early May, with the windows wide open inviting in a gentle breeze to cool my skin, I think of her. She always had the windows open. I wrack my brain for other memories to comfort me on the eve of another Mother’s Day minus a mother with whom to celebrate. She would have no patience for any of my nostalgic attempts at remembering as she was always one to look on the bright side of things. But children are a product of two parents, and like it or not, so it is with me.
Mom was a creature of habit. Oatmeal for breakfast; peanut butter & jelly sandwich, with a glass of milk for lunch. Reading and a nap in the afternoon. Those are the habits I remember, though she could not have possibly had that regular nap during the first 20 years of married life when bearing and raising five kids was her primary task. Her temperament was for the most part as predictable as her choice of foods – she was as steady as they come.
She was a fairly private person and as I mentioned already, she was never one to linger in the past. This meant that as we moved about, she would easily let past hobbies or talents go as we moved to new areas. For instance, when we moved from the northeastern to southeastern United States, she left her talent of skating behind. I remember going to skate with her as a little girl, but I don’t recall seeing her skate until I was in my 20’s and was visiting my family in Michigan after they moved back north. We went down to the lake to skate, and as I put my skates on and began literally crawling toward the lake, I looked up in amazement to see Mom doing figure eights and flips with ease. After struggling to stand, I took off my skates in resignation and I wondered why I didn’t get that gene from her.
In my early thirties, Mom and I went to the Bahamas for her brother’s wedding. One of the treats for us was to go parasailing. I hemmed and hawed, not sure if I was brave enough to try it, and looked around for Mom to talk to about it. But when I finally found her in my sight, she was zipping off in a little boat to be the first one up! Another shock for me – she had hidden the adventuress she really was until that point. I made sure I was on the second little boat following her.
She was pure Irish and it showed. She was a mixture of pragmatism and whimsy that was charming. Her sister and three brothers have those same kind of qualities. On one vacation with her at her brother’s lake house on the St. Lawrence River, after lunch at the local pub, as we drove back to the house, a good song with a good beat came on the radio. We quickly pulled up by the house and everyone got out and started dancing in the yard. Joy in the moment.
Mom loved her children. The joys and sorrows she experienced came directly from the experiences of her children. When we hurt, she hurt. When we leapt with joy, she leapt with joy. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because [God] first loved us.” I believe this is a model as close to mother love as possible. In the human realm, the mother is the first one to love her child. With her very body, she nourishes her babe. I remember some friends who adopted a little girl and she had dissociative behaviour issues, and they learned that those were a result of the bond between mother and child not developing. There is so much damage when the first love goes wrong or disappears. But there is hope.
God’s love for us is a mother’s love. As we turn to him and receive his love in the form of his son, Jesus, no matter our circumstances, we are reborn. We become a babe again, and we will be nurtured and healed by this first love – a love that never leaves us nor forsakes us.