Don’t get me wrong, my mother was an amazing woman. Growing up, she came home every afternoon from school, saddle up her horse and rode out with her brother Pete to doctor screw-worm calves across 10,000 acres of marsh and swamp. She was the most popular girl in her graduating class at Lake Placid High School (of course, there were only six). She married my father, who though a tough cowboy, still lived with his mother. When Daddy died, Momma resisted all suggestions that she sell the ranch, move into town and live a life of ease. Momma had strength.
I suppose Momma once had a nurturing side, but when Daddy died, something inside her died. I remember Momma as fun and strong. As I look back, the weight she carried was unreal. But she didn’t have time to explore her feelings; there was work to be done and she did it. She had a lot of steel, not much cushion.
But God put other mothers in my life.
When I went to my Aunt Frieda Gill’s house, the rules were different. We could have cokes and Hershey’s Chocolate Bars. Comic books were forbidden at our house. Not at Aunt Frieda’s. There was a stack of comic books you could read till your eyes hurt. Aunt Frieda gave me a lot of joy.
My aunt Faye Shackelford owned the S&S Grocery Store in town. Whenever Momma went in to buy groceries, Aunt Faye would call me over and tell me to get a candy bar – but not to tell Momma she let me have one. It would be years before I realized you had pay for candy bars. Aunt Faye taught me grace means something you get, something really good for free.
My aunt Mildred Hadsel (we called her “Aunt Mooie” for some reason) would pick me up and go riding around the county to look at new houses people were building. I can still see her, in her heels and holding her purse, exploring Adrian Chapman’s house while it was under construction. “Good Lord,” she said, “You’d have to ride a bicycle from the bedroom to the kitchen for breakfast!” Then we’d go to Senterfitt’s to get a cheeseburger and fries. That was the best part of all – I didn’t have to share fries with my brother. Aunt Mooie gave me taste for exploration – and she spoiled me a little too.
My aunt Neta Prescott kept me often when I was small. Every afternoon she would settle into her recliner for a nap. I would watch “Let’s Make a Deal” and she would emit gentle snores. About four in the afternoon, a thunderstorm would come up. Thunder and flashes of lighting could scare a five-year-old boy, but Aunt Neta would sleep right through the storm. Something about her steady breathing made me feel safe in the storm.
My aunt Iris Hendry was my defender. Once she told my brothers to stop picking on me or she would sit on them. They did not heed her warning and keep it up. The next thing they knew, Aunt Iris had picked them both up, put them on the couch, and sat on them. Aunt Iris was not fat, but she was also not small. The couch erupted with cries for mercy. Aunt Iris protected me.
Bert Calder helped my Momma at home and watched over us. I loved Bert. All I had to do was tell her Steve was picking on me (whether he was or not), and she would get on to him. Bert was always on my side.
Somewhere in college I learned that parents were supposed to be perfect. Any problem in your life could be traced back to your parent’s failures, according to Freud. I spent too much time being angry at my mother for not being perfect.
As I matured, I realized Momma did the best she could. Given who she was, what she was dealing with, she did what she could. It’s not fair to be mad at someone for not giving what they don’t have. One the most important things I did as a follower of Jesus was to forgive my mother for not being perfect.
God was gracious enough to give me other women in my life who filled in the gaps. I’m not sure Hillary Clinton is right, that it takes a village to raise a child, but I know it took a whole lot of women to raise me. God provided many mothers for me.
This Mother’s Day, forgive your mother for not being perfect. She probably was doing the best she could. I’ll bet God sent some other women into your life to mother you in the best sense of the word. Give God thanks for the many mothers in your life.
And if you are a woman, chances are pretty good someone besides your own child needs you to pour into them. You might be the mother God sends to help someone know they matter, they are safe, and someone is on their side.