So, Sunday was Mother’s Day. I’m not much of a Hallmark holiday girl. I prefer my holidays to have some sort of religious significance. But I can’t complain too much when I get a gift card for a massage out of the deal.
Back in February when I was at Laity Lodge, I met Laura Lynn Brown. We had some delightful conversations and lots of laughs. And she gave me a copy of her book, Everything That Makes You Mom: A Bouquet of Memories.
It’s a small book, with barely a paragraph on a page, but each of those paragraphs, taken together, brings Laura’s mother into lovely relief, from her home remedies for various ailments to her “merciful but just” response to foul language. Some paragraphs are snapshots of clothes she wore or embarrassing moments or her favorite movie stars. Others highlight idiosyncrasies and in-jokes between mother and daughter.
After each paragraph are questions, designed to help the reader think of her own mother—what she wore, what she kept on the kitchen counter, what movie star would best play her in a movie of her life—and bring to mind memories of good times.
In a day and age when we seem to blame our parents for everything that’s wrong with us, Laura’s book is a godsend. And a much needed antidote for that cultural proclivity to play blame-the-parent. As a mom, I feel it deep in my bones—this fear that because I am not perfect, I am ruining my children’s lives and some day, God help me, they’re going to know it and turn their backs on me. Or blame me for whatever problems they’re facing in life. I see my own tendency to trace my (bad) behavior back to my parents and my upbringing, and I don’t like it.
Reading Laura’s book helped me to remember that my mother always carried a purse that weighed more than most people’s checked airport luggage, that she carried a key chain that was a deadly weapon (at the very least, it would poke out her assailant’s eyes), and that she was an activist crusading against child pornography during my middle school years. It strikes me that my own interest in abolishing the slave trade, particularly child sex trafficking, is a direct heir of my mother’s activism, a part of her life and my heritage that I had completely forgotten until reading Laura’s book.
I also remembered that my mom made some pretty rocking awesome Halloween costumes for me, including giant paisley petals in a wire frame that circled my two-year-old head, my cherubic face the stigma. I remembered watching I Love Lucy reruns with her and my sister on summer mornings. And I remembered the way she shrieked and jumped onto her chair when she was sorting through a box—and a mouse leaped out of it. I’m not sure who was more scared: the mouse, my mom, or me (that shriek was bloodcurdling, I tell you, absolutely bloodcurdling).
Some of these memories tickled my funny bone. Some wowed me. Some brought a smile. All reminded me that even though my mom wasn’t perfect, we had a lot of good times that led to good memories. As a far-from-perfect mother myself, this is a hopeful reminder, pointing me to a future in which my own children remember good times and (please God?) graciously forget the moments when I am less than perfect.