Happy Mothers Day to every unapologetic mom fighting in the trenches
This Mothers Day we are all given the opportunity to step back and thank our mothers for the often thankless job of bringing us up. This year in particular, I’d like to give a shout-out to the type of mother who just makes the liberals squirm — mine.
My stay-at-home mom, who left her MBA career to raise three children and ended up as enemy number one of the local teachers union, couldn’t have been a better example of what a selfless mother can provide to her children. Her stay-at-home-mom career is one to which I aspire, which I would view as the apex of all my years of education and life experience. (In the meantime, I’ve got Legal Insurrection.)
Like many children who adore their mothers, I think mine was unusually apt in her role. From hand-sewn Halloween costumes to Civil War battlefield spring break trips, she was the main architect of an appropriately strict but loving upbringing. We had the freedom to get ourselves into numerous scrapes, but the foundation from which to understand the right way to get out of them.
We were sent away from the age of 9 to 18 to summer camp in Colorado at her insistence, despite the remonstrances of soccer coaches and the allure of grade-point-average-padding summer school tutors. She wanted us to face fear, appreciate the outdoors, a healthy level of danger, and develop that knowledge that (I think) mountains uniquely carve into those who test themselves against them.
To me, she excelled in the way that though it seems unparalled by any who had come before or after her; but I suspect that sentiment may be shared by many other happy children about their moms.
As Tolstoy wrote at the beginning of Anna Karenina, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
But mostly I saw her sacrifice the prestige and independence that a career might have afforded to fight it out in the trenches of what might be the most hostile territory a parent can enter: the public school system. She took our PTA out of the national system so that it became the PTO, filed FOIA requests to determine if school district contracts had competitive bidding, and eventually sought public service as a member of the locally elected school board.
There, I saw her endure ridicule, venom, and derision as the lone conservative school board member who dared to vote against the teachers union. I saw also her fear the impact her challenges to the teachers union would have on her children’s schooling (we didn’t care, we had the example of a tough and principled mother to live up to).
She had worked for Don Rumsfeld and once you lived up to his standards, she said, nothing could scare you.
I owe my dedication to this country and its principles, and whatever fearlessness I can muster on a given day, to the example she provided me. While each of our mothers have their own unique story, my mother’s required particular courage and selflessness, which continues to this day.
In order to sustain our representative republic, we cannot leave mothering up to the state. This Mothers Day, let’s celebrate those who embrace all the challenges and opportunities motherhood provides, without feeling shame or apologizing for their role.
Anyone else have a mother who deserves a Legal Insurrection shout-out?
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Hoorah for your Mom! You were blessed.
What a great tribute to a fantastic lady! Thanks for sharing her with us.
What a great tribute! Having grown up in the 60’s and 70’s, my mother was the one who baked the cupcakes for the class party and supported my siblings and I in whatever endeavor we chose to pursue. She expected us to stand up for ourselves and use our brains to get ahead. Her counsel was usually given in aphorisms such as “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” (her favorite) or with a short sentence that shamed you into doing the right thing.
After 10 years in the work world, I too chose to stay at home and raise my own children and have never regretted that choice. As they are now launching into the adult world, I am becoming a “warrior”, carrying the fight to the trenches because I believe that no one cares about your children as much as you do; and no one will ever raise them as well as you will. Hooray for SAHM’s.
Those aphorisms sure are sticky! I remember, “you’ll get your reward in heaven.” It’s the little things like cupcakes that mean so much in retrospect, thanks for sharing!
Mothers don’t pray like the rest of us.
I learned that long ago. Have a brother at war and you’ll learn a lot of things about your mother. Sure, she seems to be the same Mom. The house works, the other kids go about growing up and the mundane and ordinary seem to be the substance of the days. But not the nights.
Night’s a different story. No meals or laundry or drop-offs. No daily routines scheduled. No searches for missing gloves or shoes or books.. No school project solving or whispers to grow up on. No friend analysis or girlfriend observations. Or rah-rahs from the stands. Nope. Nights belong to the son on the other side of the world. Far from a phone. Far from home.
And her nights are almost silent. But not entirely. Because she thinks the house is wrapped in sleep, so her prayer-murmurs seem safe from others’ ears. But she’s tricked by the silence of the dark because her whispers might as well be cathedral bells in the still of the night.
It’s an odd whisper, too. Almost breathy and punctuated by “siss” after “siss”. That’s the give away that it’s a prayer. The whisper itself speaks. Not every word is clear and catchable. But it’s not hard to swallow the gist. And then you get the the give-away cue.
“Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum …”
Then you know she’s half way around the world as well. Oh, you can hear her voice … somewhat. And even see the night light through the crack of the door. But she’s not really there.
I heard that silent racket every night. For years. Ever since my Marine-brother moved to the coast, then Hawaii … each a step to Vietnam. A fourteen thousand mile step from Gramercy Place. All the brothers were sort of awed by the sheer distance. But my Mother never seemed troubled by the distance at all. She was troubled by the powerlessness. There was nothing in her past to show her how to intervene, how to help her son, how to soothe the moment or battle the fear. There wasn’t any parental trick in her sack for this type of stuff. So she did what she knew how to do. She prayed.
“Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus.”
At thirteen, with a little luck, you finally (sorta) get past yourself. And a sleepy trek down the upstair’s hallway at 2 a.m. … surrounded by loud whispers … will get you all the way past yourself. Because now you’re eavesdropping on something sacred. The type of whisper tells you that. It’s part prayer and part plea. You can only make out pieces of words here and there. But you understand it all perfectly. You don’t need any help like you do with Shakespeare. There’s no riddle to unravel. There’s no real secret at all. You hear some words and you know the message. You know who she’s really talking to … and you feel she’s being listened to.
“Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus,”
And there you stand. In the dark. In the hallway. Nothing to see and almost … almost … nothing to hear. But it all seems so volumed-up because the silence is so loud. And you know the next prayer-line. And the one word in that prayer-line that has to be a rugged whisper for that lady. The one word and the one phrase she doesn’t want to say, but has no choice. Not if it’s to be a successful plea.
“nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.”
“Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” That’s the phrase that brings a pause. Until it all begins again. Over and over and over. Part mantra. Part plea. But all pain.
And for years that was the night noise at Gramercy Place. I know others heard it as well. It happened every night. There were too many other sons there. But not a one has ever mentioned it … even almost fifty years later. It was a moment we were all privy to. And not a part of. And not offended at all. Because we all understood, in our own way, that this had nothing to do with us. Or war. Or miles. This had to do with a mother and a son. And a mother willing her son home. To her. Alive. So, once again.
“Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum …”
That gave me goosebumps. I’d forgotten how the Latin used to do that.
Thanks for the tribute to your mom!
My mom was a feminist. She went back to work full-time in 1966. I think she was the only working mom in a 10-mile radius. She worked her way up from city hall secretary into a high-profile job with the city redevelopment office. There she scrupulously oversaw multi-million-dollar projects. When the local Mafia told her to rig the sealed bidding, she told them to go to hell. So they pulled strings with their cronies in the city government; she was fired, a puppet put in her place.
The day she was fired was the same day her divorce was finalized. So she was pretty much on her own with two pre-teen daughters and a still-married boyfriend.
Needless to say, my young life was a freakin’ soap opera. For her many faults, however, she had a quiet strength and determination that I have always admired. Though I doubted her priorities at times, her love for me was never in doubt.
What an amazing story of standing up for her principles. That is an amazing example, and I am glad to know it.
Thanks. She’s a complicated woman who has alternately made me nuts and made me proud.
Oh, yeah, forgot to mention–years later, she got to see karma visit the puppet and his string-masters. In court. The case didn’t have anything to do with her firing, but everything to do with their overall idiocy. She tells me when she needs a laugh, she pulls out the trial transcript.
She wanted us to face fear, appreciate the outdoors, a healthy level of danger, and develop that knowledge that (I think) mountains uniquely carve into those who test themselves against them.
She probably also wanted a rest. Kids’ summer camp is a mother’s vacation. I know.
Your mother sounds amazing!
If our mothers could all get together for a party, my mother would be the one trying to hide in the corner … she was very painfully shy (something I inherited from her, thanks for that, Mom!).
I remember one summer when I was about 8-years-old, my dad hired a housekeeper for her (probably afraid she’d wear herself out cleaning).
When my dad came home after the first day, he could see the woman hadn’t done a good job. The windows she’d cleaned (our house was a huge modern house that seemed to be 90% windows) were streaked and my mom hadn’t been able to finish them between the time the woman finished for the day and my dad got home (she’d also clean up any hotel room we were staying in before the maid came so the maid wouldn’t think she was a slob … and because she felt sorry for them).
My dad came home and caught my mom trying to fix the mess the housekeeper had made of the windows and told my mom to fire her.
I remember seeing my mom sitting by the phone later in agony, not able to bring herself to call the woman and fire her.
The next day was as absurd as it was comical. The woman showed up and Mom couldn’t bring herself to answer the door and tell her she was fired. As the woman walked around our house peering into all the windows, Mom and the four of us kids hid behind furniture so she wouldn’t see us. The house was like 90% glass so it was like trying to hide inside a fishbowl. As the woman moved along the perimeter, getting a different viewing angle, Mom, like the leader of a platoon of soldiers trying to avoid capture by a force superior in numbers, would quickly move to the next outcropping of furniture and wave us four kids over to hide with her at the right moment.
That was my mom. Her sweetness was just too delicate for this world. It was really something to go to the local grocery store here with her as a boy. To the middle-aged and elderly women checkers, she was like a little princess. They’d stop working and come over to say “hi” to her … then one or two of them would place a gift of a half-gallon of ice cream or something in our bags against her sweet protests. They just adored her for her unfailing manners and politeness.
She was never destined for greatness, but she was a great mom. I owe her everything, and I know now how hard everyday of her life must have been struggling with social phobia and depression. She was a very simple woman who loved nothing more than to watch the Friday night movie of the week on TV while I sat behind her and brushed her hair and tickled her back for a quarter.
You captured her spirit wonderfully, the story of the housekeeper shows a truly kind and gentle nature (and clean!)….I think these stories show what greatness is, not some sort of pinnacle of outward success but stories for children to tell and remember and return to when we need strength.
Even in her shyness, your mother brought out the good in others. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Anne and Rosalie. 🙂
I often laugh (and grimace) later at the lengths I will go to avoid certain situations and people.
If my mom were alive and if there were a video of that time playing hide and seek with the housekeeper who didn’t want to believe nobody was home … my mom would be laughing her cute, infectious laugh watching it.
She’s in her eighties. Still, after all the years that have passed, a devoted wife to her husband. Her background includes a professional career; elder care of, first, her parents and then her husband’s parents; participation in the operation of a farm; upkeep of a household; and, being the sort of neighbor everyone would desire.
A medical problem prevented her from having children. It seems such an injustice, because she surely would have been a wonderful mother. Nevertheless, she and her husband are the “salt-of-the earth” type people who, in their own way, have tried to do their part in making this a better world.
Though not a mother in the sense of having given birth to a child, she is, even today, motherly. She does not harbor “hurts,” wishes the very best for all, prays for the well-being of others, does not complain, and makes an apple pie that ranks among the world’s best! She does not covet possessions, but sees them as a tool to be used in the “work” of life for the betterment of others, as well as for herself. And, so, she also ought to be honored on this day by having lived the very best of the life of a woman, despite the deep wound of being childless. She is truly a blessing to those who know and love her.
I could write more. However, this is much too personal. Just remember, there are others like her who ought to be likewise remembered this day.
G_D bless her! And, at the last, grant her a peaceful end.
Hey AL – She has not gone yet . Happy Mothers Day to her !
As a mother to nine children — all by choice — I believe I am qualified to state this observation: MOTHERHOOD ROCKS!