Mothers & Marmees & Moms, Oh My!

Mother’s Day is here, bringing back memories of my sister and I and an Easy-Bake Oven cake presented to my mother, in bed, with purple Kool-aid. She smiled and choked it all down – we laugh about it still. Have you ever considered that it’s likely your mother heard your first laugh? And, your laughter is likely something your mother loved to hear. Her child’s laughter fills a mother’s heart with joy more easily than anything else.  As a mom of grown young men, I miss my boys laughing together at the dinner table (it helped that I raised a couple of characters, rather comedic characters).

I’ve been thinking about literary mothers, too and the two who affected me most as a child are Marmee, Mrs. March from Little Women and Caroline Ingalls (before the television show) from the Little House books. To me, they both were amazing — full of love and very “teacherly” in a non-threatening way. I adored them. They were strong women, living in times and situations that required strength, but strength tempered with unconditional love created something else altogether for me — the ideal mom.

In my life, I’ve been fortunate to spring from strong women. This family snapshot from my uncle’s wedding in 1965, shows me as the unhappy flower girl. (I was ill with a bladder infection and pouting a lot, partly because even though I was almost five, my mother insisted I had to wear rubber pants. She was right, of course, but I was far too old for rubber pants in my little mind – and, quite upset.) I love this picture for so many reasons — my Grandma, in the fur coat (mother of the groom) looks happy, proud and gently concerned about me. My mother shares my great-grandmother’s expression, bursting with pride. Also, my baby brother is barely visible as a tiny bump under my mother’s sailor dress. The hats are so 1965 for mass. My great-grandmother lived the mythic American story, arriving through Ellis Island in the early 1900s. She outlived three of her daughters. My grandmother raised her family under difficult conditions after a divorce, at a time when divorces were scandalous. My father died when my mother was thirty-nine, leaving her with two daughters in college and a teenaged son. Life wasn’t easy for these hard-working women, but they channeled Winston Churchill, never gave up, and taught by example about what perseverance means.

In this writer’s opinion, perseverance is the key word for writers. Those who stick with it will continue to write despite rejections, lack of responses from agents, loneliness, etc. And, when the downs feel overwhelming, it can help to find a new thing to help you continue when the writing life gets hard. I often recall Anne LaMott in Bird by Bird speaking of her writing as a gift. I consider my writing a gift to my fore-mothers. I appreciate their examples of perseverance – whatever life hands you – and especially, the love and importance of family. For Mother’s Day this year, I will reflect on the love and lessons from my mother, her mother and her grandmother. I will hope that by next Mother’s Day, I’ll be able to show my mother more progress in my writing.

Do you sometimes write and think of your writing as a gift? How did your fore-mothers influence you and your writing? If you are a mom, Happy Mother’s Day. I know you had a mom, so I hope you have lovely, laugh-filled thoughts to dwell on this Mother’s Day.

Happy #writing!

(Note: this post first appeared at Finding Meaning with Words.)

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