In 2022 I wrote the perfect note for Mother’s Day. Well, at least it was perfect for me. So rather than agonize over finding some thoughtful new perspective on the topic, I’m simply reposting this in a slightly edited form. *
Mother loved the old-fashioned iris. She had them in our garden patch and when I see them today my thoughts inevitably turn to her. As I passed near the Koiner Urban Farm on one of my recent walks I saw my first irises of the year. During what has been a tough time for anyone who cares about rights and democracy in America, my thoughts of Mom went to how she dealt with similar challenges.
Mom passed away on New Year’s Day in 1998, but her life and the lessons she taught me still provide a helping hand here in the 21st century. Lessons such as:
- Women are to be respected and valued as people. Mom, the first woman elected as a deacon at First Baptist Church, was a quiet but effective leader who valued other women as leaders. She worked most of her career under a woman, Briley Adcock, our municipal library director. Helen Brown was no radical feminist, but she also did not buy any of the “woman’s place on a pedestal” nonsense. Two of the best bosses in my career were women, and I worked easily in that environment thanks to Mom’s example.
- Books are meant to be read, not banned and burned. Mom was a lifelong reader and learner. She loved books and as both a mother and a librarian she loved teaching young children about books. I am appalled at the push by right-wing zealots to ban books today, as if we learned nothing from the fight against the fascists in World War II. Our country is filled with problems. Reading too many books isn’t one of them.
- Vote in every election. Mom and Dad were informed citizens with a strong BS detector when it came to politicians. They also voted in every election. Being independent, I know of more than one occasion when they cancelled each other’s votes. I’ve followed Mom’s lead, voting in every election since 1976 when I supported Jimmy Carter for president.
- Treat everyone with respect. And that means everyone. We simply were not permitted to be rude to others, no matter how different they were or how marginalized by society. As the country has become more intolerant, I frequently remind myself not to fall into that trap.
- Be the person you are meant to be. Mom and Dad probably succeeded with this life principle beyond their wildest dreams. Even when it was tough, they stood by their belief that each child has to figure out what is in store for them in this world. I have tried, generally with success, to follow their example with our children.
- You have no right to complain if you don’t do the service. Mom did not like cynics who complained without making a serious effort to work towards a solution. She took her turn as PTA president, even though it was the year our local schools were being desegregated following the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. She did it because she felt it was the right thing to do. Mom was always “in the arena” as Teddy Roosevelt would say. **
When I see the patch of iris, I am reminded that Mom is still here, helping me see that we are facing another moment in America where we can change our narrative and our future for the better. It will not be easy, but we need to see everyone — even the marginalized — as humans of value with the same rights we have. We need to educate ourselves so we don’t blindly follow the tribe. We need to do our duty as citizens in a democracy.
It will not be easy, but we have to continue to try, for ourselves, and for our children and grandchildren. Our mothers are calling us.
Happy Mother’s Day.
More to come…
*In the original post I also linked to a lovely remembrance of Mom by my sister Carol.
**In his famous Citizenship in a Republic speech, Roosevelt railed against cynics who looked down at those who were trying to make the world a better place. “The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer,” he said. “A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities — all these are marks, not … of superiority but of weakness.” It is the person (man in Roosevelt’s day) who is actually in the arena, who comes up short but keeps striving, who counts.
Image by dewdrop157 from Pixabay