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The Loveliness of Motherhood

December 30, 2006
The Loveliness of Motherhood"So often the acts of virtue practiced by a mother are only seen by a few: her children. Here in this carnival we might see how hidden acts of virtue can bear public fruit many years down the road.. . . jot down any fond memories, insightful words, good practices that you remember from your childhood."
Helen at Castle of the Immaculate

Chers Amis,

Little pitchers have big ears –  and eyes.  They learn more from watching our example than listening to our words.  Watching and listening to my mother in the last 39 years  has taught me more than she probably realizes about the loveliness of motherhood, the power of quiet virtue, the importance of beauty, and the reality of unconditional love.   I have learned that Mothers are not perfect. Mothers are people too. Mothers are amazing.

    My mother is an artist, a creator. Some artists, and mothers, shoo children out of the kitchen or studio or office and tell them to let her listen to her muse or work in peace.  Mom invites them in to play. She shares her art and love of beauty and is happiest surrounded by children poking their fingers in her paints, squeezing her clay, experimenting with her scissors.  When we were very little my mother was a weaver.  Instead of a table, our dining room was encompassed by an enormous loom and next to the kitchen table was an antique spinning wheel.  We could touch anything we wanted.  She would buy raw wool that we would wash and card and dye it  using onion skins and walnut shells.  One day she bought a piece of green soapstone and taught herself to sculpt.  We would go hiking along mountain streams in Colorado looking for marble and poke through the quarry in search of the right alabaster or pumice for her new work.    Art is a team sport for her. Today she teaches art  in San Antonio, mostly to homeschoolers and is the happiest I have seen her in decades.  She sees every tube of paint, every new technique, every   artist as something to share with her students and every child as a precious gift.  Her mission –  to encourage them to discover their own creativity and find joy in art. She is one of the Great Masters.

    Our house was never Better Homes and Garden clean but it was full of the arts, music and the simple beauty of nature.  Thank goodness.  Sometimes there was stone dust on the counters,  our cups and glasses held Kool-aid, paintbrushes and rasps, clay cured in the oven, canvases lounged next to couch – and that wasn’t the studio. When I was in elementary school we lived in an artsy  Colorado  town and Mom, who had never studied music, joined a baroque recorder group.  They would meet and practice in our living room, filling our home with the most beautiful music.  Instead of hiding her expensive instruments away she put them where my sisters and I could play with them and make music. She and my father would take us to the Denver Art museum and Museum of Natural History.  Later, when we lived out in the  scrubby flatwoods of south Florida  where museums were few and far between, she made our garage her studio and nature her gallery.  She was working full time to support three girls but she still sculpted and painted constantly – even at the beach!

    Mom taught me the most about love and service to others.  I remember her telling me that a child is the only person in your life that you know you’ll love even before meeting them.  So true.   Even when things were at their darkest – and life does get pretty dark sometimes – she was loving.  I knew that my mother loved me unconditionally.  Oh, she didn’t like my sauciness or "evil" looks, that it never occurred to me to pick up the piles of detritus I left behind, but she LOVED me, Marjorie.  She could find something to compliment in whatever I did, found good and promise even when I was in teenage despair.  Moms are the best back scratchers and head rubbers.  When my stepfather became paralyzed and eventually bedridden, she displayed great courage and love in caring for him for more than 10 years.  She also cared for my  cantankerous grandfather for many months at the end of his life. Was she never frustrated, angry, sharp?  No, but she gave endlessly of herself and sought ways to brighten their worlds and persevered in difficulty.

    Mom is a zephyr that never sits still, never becomes static or stagnant and is always trying something new. She gave us great freedom to express ourselves within clear limits and to learn by doing.   Her mother had been a great artist too, but a perfectionist with an iron hand.  Perfection for Mom was  superfluous and hampered creativity and learning.  She taught me that mothers are not maids and were not created to put away your laundry and that mothers didn’t have children just to give themselves something to do during the day.  I learned macaroni and cheese without the macaroni, jello fruit salad without the fruit, and charred open-face tuna and  cheese sandwiches are still delicious.  Wearing polka-dots with stripes doesn’t hurt anyone and helps you learn to dress properly – eventually.  I learned that after a certain age kids need to get themselves up and ready for school because you don’t have a nanny in real life.  I roomed with a girl my freshman year in college whose mother – or maid – did everything for her and she as totally unprepared for life.  She couldn’t do a load of laundry, boil water or make her bed.  Only regular infusions of cash saved her.  She needed my mother.  So do I.

    No one loves you the way your mother does. No one can push your buttons like your mother can.  Only your mother can guilt you into returning to Florida from France because your hiding from your own indecision.  Moms do know best more often than not.  Proof – I have a wonderful husband, vibrant faith and three children of my own.  OK, no house in France, the only drawback 🙂  There is always the lottery. . . As I wrote this and pondered  on what I loved best about childhood  and what lessons I am using or not using, I realized that I need to put more of my mother’s wisdom into practice.   She is a wise if whimsical spirit. See, you never stop learning from your Mom.

If you are reading this, Mom.  I love you.  Thanks for everything.

                                        — Marjorie

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 1, 2007 2:03 pm

    I smiled and nodded through the opening of this post. Such a colorful description of your artistic, interesting mother!

    When I came to the words “Moms are the best back scratchers and head rubbers”, however, a lump rose in my throat and the tears came to my eyes.

    Because there is something about this motherly gesture–such a simple act, perhaps, but you remember it!–that truly captures the selfless love and generous nature of a mother.

    Of your mother.

    And I hope of you and me.

    Thank you for this beautiful tribute, Marjorie. Happy Feast of Mary, Mother of God.

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