During the first 11 years of my life, my older brother was my “protector”. But as he confessed years later, he had to care more about getting away than staying to protect. Being in the Navy was easier than living at home.
So it was just the two of us…Mother…me.
Mother was not someone who gave love. She demanded instant obedience, confession and shame. The results were constant feelings of guilt and fear. I felt like I lived with a warden. Mother left wounds invisible to the eye.
That all changed when I turned 15. Mother and our church arranged that I should marry the preacher’s son. Before I completed high school, I married and moved away.
As I grew older…and worked on me…I struggled to find good attributes about my Mother. Thoughts of her would turn negative almost immediately. The Ten Commandments were fairly easy to follow, except that fifth one. How could I “honor” my Mother?
Truly desiring to follow the Commandments, I began to research. I discovered that “honor” could also be defined as “love” or “respect”. It could also mean “not rebelling against or challenging” her authority. I had that one down pat.
I began to dig in my memories for scraps of value in the way she raised me. Something I could respect…or at least feel good about.
One memory came to me. Eating ice cream. Together.
We were poor. Ice cream was a huge treat. On rare occasions, we would walk the six blocks to the grocery store, purchase a pint of ice cream, and walk home. Kansas gets hot in the summer. By the time we reached home, the ice cream had already softened.
She would place the brick shaped pint on the counter of the hutch in the room we called a kitchen. First she opened the end flaps. Then she pried back the flap along the edge, laying the container out flat. With a knife, she divided the brick of ice cream in half, placing each half in a bowl. We would take our bowl and spoon, climb down the outside stairway and sit on the steps of the front porch below.
There was a proper way to eat ice cream. You scraped the soft ice cream off with your spoon and placed it in your mouth. While you savored that bite, you turned the brick over. The bottom side was now softened, so you scraped and ate it. This pattern continued until the ice cream was gone.
I felt close to my Mother while we ate our ice cream. She didn’t talk.
Mother was into health before it was fashionable. Since we walked everywhere we went, she got her cardio. But daily she did exercises on the floor. She also would stretch her leg by walking up to the counter of the hutch, throw her leg up on it, and then bend over it.
Mother jumped rope. Her notoriety spread and she was given an assortment of jump ropes…some complete with bells and whistles. Any time she had a visitor, out would come the jump rope and she would exhibit her skills. When she reached 80, my sister decided “enough” with the jumping and took them all away.
A few years before her death, my husband and I went to visit Mother in Kansas. The temperature on her front porch said 112 degrees. She had never had air conditioning. But the trusty hassock fan was moving the hot air. As she greeted us at the door, her phone rang.
At age 83, she jumped over the fan on the way to answer it.
From my earliest memories of her, until the last time I saw her before her death, she told me her weight. It was always 140.
We took in washings and ironings for a living. But no matter where her money came from, whether earnings or from family, she tithed on it. On a regular basis, she demonstrated the “widow’s mite” to me.
One memory I have that has allowed me to “honor” my Mother is the image I have in my head of her bent over her Bible…reading. She never missed a day. I admit, sometimes she beat me over the head with what she read, but she knew her scripture.
My Mother was one of the strongest people I have ever known. Even though her God seemed like an ogre to me, she received strength in her belief that sustained her through some very difficult times.
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