Last week I mentioned my mother-she was quite a woman. Next to the youngest of six kids, her mother had died when she was just a little girl, and she'd had a hard scrabble life growing up. Living on a farm, without much money in the days leading up to the Depression, she'd learned how to work at an early age. As a result there weren't many things my mother couldn't do. She told stories of plowing a field with a team of horses, loading feed into the back of a wagon, and riding a horse through huge drifts of snow to get to school. She could drive anything with wheels be it the big ole Mercury we had when I was a child or a Massey Ferguson tractor. She wore pants when other women wore dresses, but always looked immaculate whenever we went to town. AND she made the best scalloped potatoes and pan fried gravy in the world!
My mom taught me a lot of things. She always knew someone who knew someone who'd lost appendages in rather gruesome ways-hands, left hanging out the window of a speeding car, only to be ripped off by a passing semi ("Get your arm back in that window right now! A truck could come along and tear it off!"); feet mangled because they failed to exit the escalator at just the right moment (to this day, I still take a giant step when getting off each and every one!); fingers lost due to sticking them in the wrong places ("Do you want to be missing a finger!"). Another thing high on her list was wearing clean underwear every time we left the house. (What if you're in an accident, right? Personally, I've always thought that if you were in an accident, the underwear thing would be the least of your worries. But, of course, I never expressed that opinion to her!)
She taught me the meaning of boundaries. Her purse was sacrosanct. As a teenager, if I needed money, I fetched the bag to her, and she retrieved her billfold from its inky depths-depths that always smelled slightly of Juicy Fruit gum-and then she doled out the required funds. I would have no more thought about rummaging through her purse than I would've thought about snooping through her dresser drawers. (And to be honest-I was a snoopy child-but I knew that unless I wanted to be in trouble with a capitol "T", I'd best respect her rules!)
However, the most important thing my mom taught me wasn't by what she said so much, but by how she lived her life. I watched her meet life's challenges head on, and I don't think once she ever told me that I was incapable of doing something. She showed me that if you're going to give something a shot-make it a good one! You might fail, but at least you know you tried. And I think it was that lesson that gave me the courage to give writing a go.
No, my mom isn't around now to read Ophelia and Abby, and I really don't know what my down-to-earth, practical mother would have thought about my choice of subject matter. (Though I'm sure she'd let me know if she were here!) But I do hope she'd be pleased that I set a goal and carried it through.
I'd love to hear what you think is the most important lesson you learned from your mom or dad?