IF MAMA AIN’T HAPPY
“All that I am, or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
“I got to grow up with a mother who taught me to believe in me.”
“Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.”
“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.
“At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.”
I always knew she was an amazing woman. Like many other mothers who pass away, their greatness shines brighter after they are gone, when their selfless acts that defined their lives are brought to the forefront of everyone’s awareness through the media.
Above the facts that she was a first lady, then a president’s mother, Barbara Bush was a strong matriarchal figure who knew the importance of loving her family. The presidential fame in her family was secondary to this love, and it shone through in her actions. She walked the talk. She put her money where her mouth was. She was vocal, active and proactive.
I didn’t fully realize this strength until she was gone. Much like Jackie Onassis, Princess Diana and my own mother as well, I didn’t realize their full maternal strengths until they were gone.
Most mothers have this kind of strength whether or not they show it; they have to. It is a prerequisite for motherhood. As a mother, I know we are called upon to be both strong and soft, active and passive.
As my years of mothering to my children continue to move toward the time for letting go years, I can only hope and pray I gave them what they needed from me. Sometimes, I think I did a pretty darn good job, other times, I despair that I failed. I worry that I didn’t give them enough of the right things. I look at what my mother gave me, and most days, I know I will never measure up to that.
But perhaps I was not supposed to. Every mother has unique gifts. Mom gave me hers; I’ll give mine to my boys.
This magnet graces my refrigerator.
I learned the title quote from Gail. I believe she had it hanging on her wall years ago. It has lasted through the ages because it appears to be true: If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Apparently I used it more than I realized with my boys.
About eight years ago, I was simply hanging up my laundry on the clothesline, and I threw my back out. It locked up, and so did I. I made my way into the house and sat down gingerly on the couch. I tried to remain motionless at that point, and obviously the pained look on my face told a tale. Both of my boys rushed to my aid, offering whatever support they could.
“Mom, can I get you a pillow? A blanket? Anything?” my youngest, at about ten asked, full of worry and concern. They were not used to seeing me in pain and out of commission. I thanked them, and sat still, trying not to moan and groan. Clearly, though, I was not happy.
“I guess that thing you say really is true.” Joel then said.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
Mother’s Day is approaching—again. Every year, for the last ten years, I have turned away from the card displays, sneered at the commercials; rolled my eyes at the ads. If my mother isn’t here and I can’t celebrate it with her, then no one else should be able to, either.
Self-centered, egocentric and selfish, I know. Part of me, I fear, will always feel that way. Another part of me knows in my heart of hearts that I was luckier than many people to have a mother like her, and even though my time with her was cut too short, I was so blessed. The deepest part of me knows I need to take her wish for her children to be Instruments of Peace, and share what she gave to us.
So I will try.
First, if your mother is no longer here, my heart breaks for you. I know your pain too well. Know, too, that the love your mother had for you, coupled with the love you had for her lives on in your heart, and nothing can take that from you. Know you are not alone. Know you will keep on surviving every day, with one foot in front of the other, using the love and strength she gave you when she was here.
That leaves those of you who still have your mothers here. If you have already made plans to celebrate her, I commend you. If not, you have two weeks to plan a Mother’s Day celebration. You have two weeks to re-arrange your schedule to fit a visit into your plans. You have two weeks to find a way to honor this woman who gave you life, love and everything she had to give to make you who you are. If you can’t celebrate Mother’s Day with her on May 13th, designate a day, weekend or more time after that as your own personal Mother’s Day celebration. Let her know this is what it is for.
She may not be here next year. Ours wasn’t.
It is hard for me to understand, given the incredible woman my mother was, but I know there are mothers who struggle to give their children what they need, who may not be an easy woman to love. I realize this, so please take this question to heart: if she were gone tomorrow, would you be at peace with everything you did to try to make your relationship a good one? Would you be able to live in peace with your efforts? Please consider this. And, know my heart breaks for you, too.
Second, if you are a mother, you deserve to be honored by your children. Accept it gratefully and graciously. Know this is your most important role right now, and relish the opportunity to have it. I plan to split the weekend between my family and Gail’s family, as her daughter is graduating from high school on Mother’s Day.
Third, get ready to do this again on June 17th for Father’s Day. He deserves it, too.
Happy Mother’s Day from the sisters of The Sister Lode.
The next few weeks for me will be bustling with Mother’s Day and graduations, including my youngest son’s. I plan to take a few weeks off from writing to focus on these events. Thank you for your continued support.