He placed his materials on the podium as the students walked into the lecture hall. His hand touched the corner of a large red envelope that poked out of his briefcase. The growing noise in the room broke his reverie.
“All right everyone, settle down.”
A stuttered thud like the sound of dominos falling could be heard as each one dropped a textbook on their desk.
“You can put those away. We won’t need them today.”
A student wearing a red football jersey rolled his eyes in mock annoyance. “I think Professor Jenkins has one of his brilliant ideas again.”
The professor walked around the podium and sat on the desk.
“You are right, Jeremy. Look, for weeks we have been discussing the human psyche—the mind. Unlocking its secrets is the main goal of most psychologists. Some feel that these things are not known for a reason, but to discover more about ourselves, the mind presents the best clues.”
A murmur ran through the classroom.
“I want as many people as will participate to tell me something about their mother. Let’s start with you, Jeremy. Are you game?”
The starting linebacker sat up. “No problem, Professor. My mom is fifty-five and she lives with my dad in Maryland.”
Professor Jenkins stroked his chin. “What type of mother was she when you were growing up?”
“Well, she stayed at home with us—me and my brother. As far as I can remember, she was always around.”
A girl in the back row chimed in. “It sounds like a real nuclear family to me. Too bad we all couldn’t have that. My mother had to work two jobs. Since I was the oldest, I got the younger ones ready for school and started dinner in the afternoon.”
“Are you close to your mother?” Professor Jenkins asked.
The girl rolled her eyes. “I don’t have any hard feelings if that’s what you mean. She did what she had to do to keep food on the table.”
A young man seated off to the side stood up. He wore a rugby shirt and slacks. “My mom married into money. Despite the fact that any woman would give her right arm to have her lifestyle she was always unhappy.”
“Do you know why?”
“It was no secret. My dad was a hard man to live with. She told me once that she stayed for us. Watching her drink herself into a stupor most days of the week didn’t exactly inspire much confidence.”
“How—” The professor saw a raised hand out of the corner of his eye.
“Please, Professor Jenkins, may I speak?”
He sensed her need to talk and yielded the floor.
“I was born and raised in a small village in the Caribbean. My mother had seven children of which I am one of the youngest. I watched her go from a woman who played with us all the time to being a closed shell when my younger brother died. She would not even hold us anymore.”
“Did you ask her about it?”
“In our family, one didn’t ask questions. I knew she loved me and I bear her no ill will. Still, I can’t help feeling that the lack of affection has changed my life in some way.”
“I don’t mean to interrupt the therapy circle, but what does all this mean?” We were back to Jeremy.
“I have heard about someone who worked to keep their family together even if it meant no time at home. Another had trouble dealing with the decisions that they had made in their life. One was afraid of their feelings and the life of another was dedicated to her family.”
“So what have we proven, Professor?”
He stood and walked back to the podium. “You and I have just learned that mothers are human beings.” He paused to let the words sink in.
“They make mistakes, suffer in silence, do the wrong thing, and on occasion, get everything right in our eyes. They have acted this way out of love or in spite of it. Either way, mothers deserve our love for giving it a try in the first place.”
“So what now?” asked a student.
“We get to know them through the eyes of acceptance for who they are and not who we wanted them to be.”
Professor Jenkins made a mental note to mail the red envelope to his mother.
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