To the Census Bureau she was just a statistic, and to the World an unknown "nobody" - but to my brother and me, she had the most revered and noble name on planet Earth..."Mother"!
At her knee, and sometimes OVER her knee, I learned about life and the difference between right and wrong. She dressed my wounds, dried my tears, explained away all my fears and loved me unconditionally.
From that first moment I was placed in her arms, she looked down to see a red, wrinkled face of a girl-child with no teeth and no hair...but she saw only beauty. If that isn't unconditional love, I don't know what is!
However, after Father Time had a few years to do "his thing", our roles have become reversed. I now look into mother's face and see wrinkles etched in HER brow, thinning hair, brown age spots and missing teeth...but I too, see only beauty!
Talk about role reversal! I remember when I was about six years old - I shoved an old rickety chair across the kitchen floor to the cabinet area, and then by standing on the chair on my tiptoes I could reach the cookie jar on the top shelf of the cupboard. Just as I was about to lift off the lid...I was startled by the sound of the kitchen door opening!
"What are you doing,!", Mother shouted! "Get down from there before you break your neck!"
How like mothers! Never mind that I was stealing a cookie, her only concern was about my safety!
Frightened by the unexpected, I started to cry. I had been caught "red-handed" with my hand in the cookie jar and needless to say, I feared the consequences.
Instead of scolding me, however, Mother helped me down off the chair, wiped my tears, and hugged me. She explained "how dangerous it was; how I could have fallen off the chair and hurt myself or broken my neck!"
I don't remember all the words of that "Safety" speech, but I vividly remember every bite of that chocolate chip cookie Mother retrieved from the cookie jar and gave to me! It was the sweetest, tastiest cookie I've ever had...before or since!
Now "Fast Forward" to about thirty years later; I drop by Mothers for lunch, only to find HER in the kitchen, standing on a three-tiered stepladder on HER tiptoes, trying to reach the top shelf of the cupboard. "Mother", I shout! "What are you trying to do, kill yourself?" The words sound like an echo! We had both heard those words before.
After helping Mother down from the stepladder, I retrieved the elusive salad bowl from the upper shelf myself, and then mother and daughter sat down at the kitchen table; and once again, three decades later, we went over the same old Safety Rules of an earlier time and place.
Yes! Role reversal definitely began that day. Mother and daughter were shifting responsibilities - of "Who" would be taking care of "Whom" now.
I still remember driving away and looking back over my shoulder and seeing Mother standing on the front porch waving good bye with one hand while clutching her precious salad bowl to her chest with the other. I remember my eyes misting over as I waved back and tried to swallow the lump in my throat - which I still swear tasted like chocolate chip!
As children, mother had been our Alarm Clock in the morning, our curfew at night and our chauffeur, chef and mentor every day of our lives. She had been our bath enforcer, prayer listener and even after my brother and I had become adults and flown the coop, Mother was still just a phone call away...that is, until yesterday.
Yesterday, everything changed! Yesterday we accompanied Mother on her final trip through town. We followed behind the shiny black limousine that wended its way slowly through the streets of her hometown, and then out to a quiet, shady spot on the outskirts of town. There, beside her childhood sweetheart and our Dad, Mother will rest peacefully until the sound of Gabriel's trumpet awakens them both on Resurrection Day.
As we rode to the cemetary in silence, each engrossed in his or her own thoughts...I noticed something out of the ordinary taking place outside the window of our limousine.
"Look!", I said, motioning to my brother to look out the window. "If Mother could only see the...." but I couldn't finish, my emotions choked off the words.
Motorists were lined up on both sides of the street sitting motionless "in-place" on the side of the road or at the curb. Not one vehicle, truck or van moved until Mothers procession had passed by! This incredible show of honor and respect by strangers for my Mother moved me to tears.
What I wanted to say, but couldn't, was "If only Mother could see these wall-to-wall people paying their respects, she would be surprised, shocked and secretly flattered by this tribute." For she had always called herself... "just a statistic and an unknown nobody"!
Meanwhile, I was envisioning this spectacular scene differently. I saw three miles of streets and roads paved in Plush Red Carpet - lined on both sides by Knights in shining Armor, sitting motionless atop white, black, grey and silver stallions! Then as Mother's Regal carriage passed by, they drew their swords and I imagined Mother passing underneath this beautiful network of crossed swords on her way to another land!
Suddenly I was yanked back to the present... standing at the gravesite listening to words of comfort ... "streets paved with gold, angelic choirs welcoming Mother home; mansions and crowns"; but truthfully, I wasn't thinking much about the Royal Reception Mother would receive "Up There" - I was still thinking about the Royal Departure Mother had just received "Down Here".
I just couldn't shake off the feeling of gratitude toward those strangers whose thoughtfulness had lifted up a heavy heart and brightened a fellow-Earthlings' darkest hour!
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"Bless your bumpity heart!" as my mother used to say. Your writing is captivating from beginning to end, so real and true and touching to read. You have painted a beautiful word picture of your wonderful relationship with your mom.
Marilyn, you made tears swell up in my eyes. Oh, what a tribute to one's mother. What a relationship the two of you must have had. Please accept my thank you for submitting this.