A Mother's Day Essay

Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday and since my mother passed away in February this will be the first year in a long time that I won’t have to stand in front of a rack of cards at the drug store or Hallmark and scratch my head while looking through card after card hoping to find an appropriately worded token of the day’s sentiment. 



“For all the things you do…” no, “Because you loved unselfishly…” uh… no.  It was next to impossible for me to find a card that I could give with sincerity.  It is not that I didn’t love my mother… I did but, there was quite a bit missing from our relationship and for that reason I did not want to give her cards that were full of words I didn’t mean which usually meant I picked out a lame generically worded card with a flower on the front that said something like “Love to you on Mother’s Day.”  I don’t have that problem anymore and that is both a blessing and a curse. 



I could write pages of what I thought my mother lacked most of us can but, I didn’t want to do that here.  Instead I want to write about her strengths and expand on those because let’s face it… someday I’ll be dead too and I would want my progeny to be as equally gracious about the things I could have improved upon but didn’t.



My mother’s first and foremost love was alcohol… up to the very last days of her life. 



One afternoon when my sister and I were at the nursing home for our daily visit, she handed my sister her water cup and asked that she put some vodka in it… that was Mama for you. 



There was so much more to my mother but, I find it hard to talk about those things.  The bad memories are what first come to mind.  Didn’t someone say…?



 “Do something right and no one will remember.  Do something wrong and they’ll never forget.” 



It’s irritating to me that when I am trying to honor my mother with a complimentary essay about her life my own negativity keeps creeping its way back into my thoughts.  My fingers start to type as if possessed…all the horrible memories from my childhood.  They were real, they deserve a platform and I have written about them but, this time I want to take some rope or a straight jacket and keep a strangle hold on those events in order to let some light slip through.  There was light back then there really was and everyone knows all it takes is a little flame to brighten up even the darkest night.  So Mama this is for you.



For My Mother This Mother’s Day


My mother grew up in the mountains of West Virginia during the depression.  It probably goes without saying that her family didn’t have much money.  Her father was a coal miner and worked very hard for little pay.  She had to grow up without the modern conveniences that I took for granted… indoor plumbing being the first that comes to mind.  I remember Mama telling me once…



“Kristie Lynn, you don’t know what cold is until you have to use an outhouse on a cold winter night.”



I was happy to take her word on that one.



Mama described her own mother as a large hard working hillbilly.   I have seen pictures of my grandmother and though she weighed 300lbs, stout is the word I would use to describe her instead of obese.  She had a broad chest and big arms and she was very tall.  I imagined her as a stern disciplinarian and not a woman to be reckoned with.



Mama told me that my grandmother “sniffed snuff”, which is a fine powdered tobacco.  She said that my grandfather always hated this as he was a devout Christian man and saw his wife’s habit as a weakness in her character. 



My grandfather did not use profanity either but my grandmother did and when she became angry at someone or something she would say the word shit over and over really fast and would run it together like this…“Shishishishishshit”.  My grandma didn’t have a weakness of character… she simply was a character.




My mother was a story teller but never realized it.  I loved the times that she would open up and share with me snippets from the past she kept tucked away deep inside.  Maybe that’s where I developed my own penchant for spinning a yarn or two about my life for my kids, because I remember the way my mom would do the same for me.



She told me stories about growing up on their little farm. 


It was her job to milk their cow every day. 


She told me about the mouth watering biscuits her mother would make and the butter she would churn… hence the strong arms. 



They grew vegetables in a patch behind their house.



They had a rock garden in the front yard.



My mother told me that her mom could take a cutting of any plant or bush, stick it in the ground and put a mason jar over it and it would grow.  Alas, a talent not genetically inheritable.



Mama relayed to me the painful memories of how her mother died of throat cancer when she was just 11 and of the wicked step-mother “Onie” that entered her life following her mother’s passing.



There was the time her brother threw her in the river that they lived next to and said…


“Sink or swim.”


She swam.



She also used to tell a tale about how her oldest brother threw a dead Screech Owl in her lap once and it scared her so bad, she developed a fear of birds.  A fear she tried to overcome by keeping a parakeet or two when I was little.  It must have helped because she taught those damn birds to talk to her and whistle Yankee Doodle.




When my mother wasn’t drinking she would keep herself busy by baking like there was no tomorrow.  Cakes, pies, and bread you name it she baked it and she was good at it. 
If you could see the rotund 5th grader I was back then you would see what I mean.
My mom baked to fill up her empty days and well… I ate to fill up mine. 



Mama would occasionally take up different hobbies now and then, cake decorating, macramé and crochet.  We used to have doilies on all the tables of our living room that she had made out of thread and a teeny tiny crochet hook.  They looked like they were made of lace to me. 


My mother was a very good seamstress and made many of my clothes. 



When I came home pregnant and battered by my first husband my mother quit drinking entirely for a time.  The unborn baby and I became her mission, her focus and she held herself together so she could go through that experience with me.  She helped me pick out things for the baby; she attended La Maze classes with me as my coach.  We were the only mother daughter team but, that didn’t seem to matter to anyone. 



When my daughter was born I was only 18.  My mom helped me learn all the things necessary to function in the new role I suddenly found myself in.  Somehow even though you have 9 months to get used to the idea… when the baby finally comes it’s still a shock.  That can be said for the most prepared, committed couple but, even more so for a frightened teenage girl. 



I have clung to that memory throughout the years as at least one thing my mom and I shared together but, I would be remiss if I didn’t try to acknowledge the fact that we were alike in many more ways. 



My mother was a scared teenage girl at one time just like I was.  She lived her life haunted by doubt and a feeling of inadequacy… hmm, that sounds just like someone I know… but, she was strong when she had to be.  She spent quite a few years as a single mother.  Supporting her children on a waitress’ salary and we never went hungry.  She had her fair share of loser boyfriends and husband’s … just like me. 



My mom and I were very good at making bad choices but, we were also good at changing direction when necessary, no matter how impossible it might have seemed.



I mentioned at the beginning of this article that my mom’s first love was alcohol but, sitting here writing and remembering I realize I was mistaken.



My mom loved her kids just like I love mine.  I never doubted her love for me I just never understood why the drinking was more important to her.  I think the reason it was is simply another character trait we share.




“It is not likely that any complete life has ever been lived which was not a failure in the secret judgment of the person that lived it”

   -  Mark Twain  



My mom felt like a failure in her children’s eyes.  I feel like I have failed mine as well… My mom drank to cope with those feelings of inadequacy… I take anti-depressants to cope with mine, not so different at all.  She had her crutch and I have mine only mine does not cause me to pass out at the dinner table.



The greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved but only outgrown.”

    - Carl Gustav Jung



I love that quote.  Carl is telling me that I don’t have to solve all my problems I just have to hang in there long enough to grow passed them and that thought brings me to the way that my mother and I differ most. 



While I continue to grow and seek enlightenment, my mother gave up her quest for light before I was ever born.  Should I fault her for that?  No, I can’t.  I have this theory that while some people are able to rise above difficult situations, others sink into theirs.  My mom may have learned to swim in that river she lived next to as a child but, she was unable to navigate the stormy waters of life with the same confidence.   Does that make her a bad mother?  No, that makes her human.  This revelation is probably the best Mother’s Day present I ever gave her… posthumously of course.



The only way we can live forever is through the memories of our loved ones.  These are sacred moments that I share.  I want to color them with compassion and understanding and I want to give them light.

Because after all… I want to live forever in my children’s memories too.




To understand everything is to forgive everything

- Buddha


©2008 Kristina-witha-K





Mike Firesmith   Mike Firesmith wrote
on 5/12/2008 8:06:32 PM

danicpa68   danicpa68 wrote
on 5/9/2008 8:01:33 AM
This was excellent!! My mom and I have a tulmutous relationship and this brings me to see her and our relationship in a new light. Thank you.

Wundrmom44   Wundrmom44 wrote
on 5/9/2008 6:25:25 AM
Thanks guys.....

StarPoet   StarPoet wrote
on 5/8/2008 11:35:14 PM
My heart goes out to you. Incredible. Absolutely incredible and thoughtful.

Voice_of_a_Dreamer   Voice_of_a_Dreamer wrote
on 5/8/2008 7:49:23 PM
WOW... No comment seems appropriate, I just wanted you to know... WOW. Thank you

Special Interest
writing Wundrmom44
Skating away on the thin ice of a new day....
Bookmark and Share

You must log in to rate.
Rating: 10.0/10

A gift to my late mother....
A Word from the Writer
Hope you like it
© 2014 WritingRoom.com, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED