Thursday, June 19, 2014

In Honor of Mothers

This was written for the May issue of the new local newspaper, The Jackson View. June seems an appropriate time to post it here; my mother's birthday was June 13 and Larry's mother's was June 12.

I watched her navigate the aisles of the grocery store, steering her cart with one child in the seat, another clinging to the side, and she herself pregnant with a third. She corrected her children, consulted her shopping list, compared prices and kept moving rapidly and efficiently through the store and finally to the checkout where she unloaded the cart, denied her children’s cries for candy, exchanged comments with the cashier, fished out her card to pay, and then steered the loaded buggy and her children out into the parking lot. Behold the young mother: the original multitasking machine.

Mom and Dad (June and Bill Connelly, Manassas, VA in 1959. That was
Grandma and Grandpa's car, and they probably took this photo since they
were into photography and had a color camera. The car later became ours.
 As I drove away my thoughts turned to my own mother. Married at seventeen to a dashing American from New Orleans who was stationed near her home as part of the Army Air Force, she left her life and family in rural England to come to a country where she knew just one person: her husband. Together they built a tiny house with few of the amenities we take for granted today, and started a family that grew to 13 children. In the 1970’s she went out to work for the first time since her days as a land girl during World War II. She sold Avon and Amway, babysat for neighbors’ children, and took a job as a nurse’s aide in the wing of the hospital she loved best, the maternity ward. She continued working for 20 years in a variety of jobs. Mom was always learning something new, interested in meeting people, and she would cross a street to see a baby in a stroller. Her love of life knew no bounds; everything fascinated her. She loved her new country but never gave up her British citizenship.

Dollie Holstein with Larry and his twin sister Mary, probably about 1954. Yes,
that's a big bruise on Mary's head, probably caused by that little guy on the left.
Those memories led me to my husband’s mother, who grew up in a coal camp in Boone County, WV and went on to marry a coal miner and live in Cabin Creek. She saw first-hand the struggle for the miners’ union and knew the hardships of coal camp living: the poorly built company houses, the company store and the dangers of using scrip for credit, the constant dust and dirt raised by passing trucks and coal trains. Yet she, like my mother, was determined to make the best of what life had brought her. She cared for her husband when he was injured in the mines and raised her four children to be able to take care of themselves, to work for what they got and to never lose sight of their heritage. She loved dishes with pretty flowers on them, and grew roses every year, carrying out her dishwater to wash the coal dust off their petals.

Mothers. They teach us grace and dignity, they show us by their example how to live lives of beauty and commitment. As our world gets increasingly complex and confusing, it is the mothers who provide the light that can guide their children to ethical, empathetic, and responsible living. Today we hear much about dysfunctional families, absentee parents, and troubled children. Yet the other story—the story of the quiet, steady mothers who work and care for their families and homes—that story is seldom told. It is not a headline grabber or tabloid material.

So here’s to the mothers who stand behind their families, guiding them like that young mother with her grocery cart, making wise decisions and teaching her children right from wrong. Happy Mother’s Day to her, and to mothers everywhere.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Mac n' Janet said...

Well said!

Celia said...

Lovely tribute to your mothers. Our mothers were amazing.

Joy@aVintageGreen said...

Good memories and wonderful examples of motherhood. My Mom was of their generation and had such similar traits. Looking back I do not know how she worked so very hard looking after her family, growing huge food gardens, tending her wonderful yard of flowers and trees, sewing all the clothing for the kids and herself, keeping cheerful, supportive and loving for Dad and all of us and then following Dad when he changed his avocation from rancher to minister and a whole new life. Mom worked too once the youngest was in school, as a clerk, as a temp teacher (for two years), as an office manager. She held the family together, kept us clothed, taught us life skills, managed the very tight budget, had boarders for so many many years as the family was raised. Do not know how she had the strength. Wow, Sue, you brought back so many memories with your post today, and a few tears. Thank you.

Nance said...

My mother too . . . found beauty in life. She was mother of nine, on a limited budget but she somehow found time to expose us children to art and literature and some finer points in life. Bless her heart -- I hope I have been able to do the same. As you do every day, Sue, not just to your children but to your community.

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