Lessons Mom taught me

My mother as a young woman

Here at Mama’s Empty Nest we’re preparing for our middle daughter’s wedding next week.  I’m sure my readers may be growing tired of reading about it,  but with all three of our adult children saying “I Do’s” this year, weddings have consumed my life in this season.

And while in the throes of going bridal, there’s been a little empty spot in my heart and my bride-to-be daughter’s.

Both of her grandmas will be missing on daughter’s special day.   My mother-in-law passed away almost 14 years ago and we lost my mother to cancer six months after that.

Today would have been my mother’s 93rd birthday.   I’m re-posting a blog I wrote a year ago about my mom, my children’s beloved maternal grandmother, in honor of her birthday.

I imagine my mother was an ultimate surprise when she was born to my grandparents after 19 years of marriage and no children.   She surely was the apple of their eye as their only child.

She certainly was the apple of mine.  Washington Irving said it well when he wrote:

“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.”

I loved and admired my mother so much, it’s difficult to express in words.  I watched her with awe and respect, especially in her last year of life as she bravely and without complaint battled the cancer that was taking her body captive.

Mom was one of the strongest, most determined people I’ve ever met; she had a feisty spirit and she was fun (ask any of her grandchildren!). She loved God, her family, and her home.  She was happiest when she was whipping up goodies in the kitchen and watching her loved ones enjoy her home cooking.

Crafts, sewing projects, quilting, crocheting – all right up her alley.  Any ideas to enhance her home or anything she could make with her own hands to give as a gift caught her attention  – just one of the ways she demonstrated her love.  She especially enjoyed planting flowers in her garden and watching her six grandchildren flower as well.

When I was a squirrelly teenager, my mother suffered through menopause.  The combination wasn’t exactly compatible so we butted heads often.  Sometimes, she just made me so mad, I would stomp up the stairs to my room and cry my eyes out.  And I know I made her just as angry.  But not once, did we ever stop loving one another.

As an adult, I realized first-hand the stresses my mom endured.  And I sadly recall wounding my mom so badly one time during my teenage years.  After yet another ridiculous battle of words I waged with her, I had shouted, “You don’t love me and you never did!”

I’ve never forgotten the look of horror on her face as she recoiled from my venomous words.  She seemed to wilt as she slowly sat down and tears quietly streamed down her cheeks.

I don’t believe I have ever regretted words more than those ugly ones I flung at her that day.   The power to reduce my mother to tears did not give me satisfaction, instead it made me realize what a spoiled brat I was being and I never hurled hurtful words like that to my mother again!

But through those trying years, Mom never stopped encouraging me, giving me good advice when I needed it, and loving me.  She urged me to be the first person in our family to attend college.

Without admonition, she expected me to try my hardest at whatever I endeavored.  I remember many late summer nights, swaying gently back and forth side by side on the front porch swing, having conversations with Mom about boyfriends, what college life would be like, and dreaming about my future.

Later, I would make my mother cry again.  When I married my true love and we loaded our belongings into a U-Haul trailer to move half-way across the country, my mother wept.  And every time we visited my parents from our home away from home, she would once again cry each time we said goodbye.

My Mom was always my rock.  She was the one I turned to for help, to vent, to rail against the injustices of my world because I knew she was always on my side.  And she always knew what to say to pick me up, dust me off, and send me back on my way.

She provided the strong arms of comfort into which I collapsed with hysterical tears in an airport ladies room after sending my military husband off to a foreign land for a year’s tour of duty.   Pregnant with our first child and saying goodbye to my husband, who would miss the birth of that child, was the most heart-wrenching task I had ever endured.

And it was Mom, who held me tight, rocked me in her arms even while she cried with me, and whispered in my ear, “You’ve got to think about this new little life you’re carrying inside of you.  You’ve got to be strong for the baby.”

I didn’t want to be strong.   But I learned to be.  And that’s one of the lessons I learned from my mother who portrayed strength every day, even as she lay dying all those years later.

Today in my book of Opportunity, I miss my mother terribly. But I can almost hear her whisper, “You’ve got to think about your family, your children.   You’ve got to be strong for them now.” And so I muster up the fortitude to carry me through this exciting yet exhausting year of marrying off my offspring and to endure watching them totally fly out of this empty nest.

Thanks, Mom for teaching me about the commitment of motherhood and the love of family.  I hope I’ve instilled those same lessons in your granddaughters.

Happy Birthday, Mom.  Give Jesus a hug for me.

“I miss thee, my Mother!  Thy image is still

The deepest impressed on my heart.” ~Eliza Cook

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

2 good 2 be 4 gotten

Image source: en.wikipedia.org

Back in the day before kids wrote spitefully mean things about one another on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking media, they actually wrote pleasant words in something called an autograph book.

Instead of ‘sexting’ obscene photos to each other, they would  draw funny, harmless illustrations, with an actual writing instrument like a pencil or pen,  in your autograph book for you to remember them by.

Autograph books became passé eventually.  But if you’re of a certain era, you’ll remember those small hardbound books and you might even have one stashed away in a box of school mementos like I do.  I actually own three of these little gems from my elementary and junior high school days.

All this simple fad required was taking your book to school with you and asking your classmates to sign it.  Mine had different pastel colored pages,  and I still remember the girl who wrote, “Just because I’m writing on pink doesn’t mean that I stink.”    I never thought she was stinky, so I always wondered why she wrote that particular ditty.

Friends penned funny lines in my book like “Yours till the ocean wears rubber pants to keep its bottom dry” and “I love you, I love you, I love you divine.  Please give me your bubblegum, you are sitting on mine!”  One silly friend wrote, “I went to your funeral.  The preacher did say, This is the shell, the nut has passed away.”

Some entries proved sweet and sentimental like “In the golden chain of friendship, consider me a link” and “In the ocean of friends, count me as a permanent wave.”  As a young girl, I always hoped some handsome young man would write something endearing in my book and my wish came true with this one:  “Roses are red, violets are blue.  Sugar is sweet, but I love you.”

On one special page, my elderly grandfather signed his name.  Nothing more.  Just his name.  But I treasure that signature since both of my maternal grandparents died six months apart from one another when I was nine.

My mother purchased all three autograph books for me and I realize now that she must have wanted me to cherish memories of my school years just as she did.  When my parents passed away and my sisters and I were clearing out all those years of accumulation at our folks’ house, we found our mother’s autograph book from school days dated 1929 to 1934.

The rhyming lines written in my mother’s book are clever and poetic.  I suspect children today don’t memorize poetry very much like those youngsters of yesteryear.  I’d like to share some of the sentiments from my mother’s autograph book and a simpler day and age with you along with my thoughts in parenthesis.

“Remember me well, remember me sick.  And when you buy candy, remember me quick. Your friend, Hazel” (Hopefully, Hazel wasn’t just my mother’s friend when she had candy.)

“Roses are red, pumpkins are yellow.  You’re the girl that stole my fellow. Your friend, Margaret” (Well, at least Margaret was still her friend!)

“When hills and vales divide us and you no more I see, pick up your pen and paper and write a line to me. Your friend, June”  (Friends whether they were near or far.)

“Far out on the ocean carved on a rock are these three words, forget me not.  A friend, Eleanora” (Isn’t that a sweet thought?)

“Remember me and bear in mind, a good true friend is hard to find.  But when you find one good and true, change not the old one for the new.  Your classmate, Marie” (Marie understood friendship well.)

“When you get old and ugly as people often do, remember that you have a friend that’s old and ugly too. Your friend, Esther Olive” (This dear lady is still alive at age 92, elderly but she’s certainly not ugly!)

“A wish for a friend is often given, but my wish for you is a home in heaven.  Your dear friend, Mildred Marie” (Since Mildred Marie cared about my mom’s spiritual life, she was a dear friend.)

“When you get old and are mending britches, think of me between the stitches.  Your friend, Carrie Belle” (This dear lady sewed a lot of stitches right beside my mother over the years.)

“I dipped my pen into the ink and grasped the album tight, but for my life I could not think a single thing to write.  H.R.” (This gentleman was my mother’s cousin – a man of few words but a kind soul.)

My uncle wrote this one in my mother’s book:  “Germany is a country but Texas is a state.  I can see it on your face when you have a date.”    (Since the word date was underlined, I think he suspected a romance was in the works for my mother and his brother, my father, don’t you?)

This entry tickles me pink.  “Remember me and don’t forget you have a friend in [our town].  Pickles are sour, sugar is sweet.  Candy is sticky and the [our town] girls are very tricky.”   (I laugh out loud when I read this one, not just because the verse is silly, but because of the writer’s initials signed at the bottom of the page.  Those initials belonged to my father.)

Out of all the clever, corny, or cherished verses written in my mother’s autograph album, I really like this one:

“When your walk on earth is ended and your paths no more I trod, may your name in gold be written in the autograph of God. Your cousin, Mabel” (I am thankful both my parents’ names are written in the Book of Life.)

My favorite entry though is one written and dated January 8, 1963 in one of my autograph books.  It reads:  “Dear Daughter, I wish I were a tea cup from which you drank your tea, and every time you’d take a sip, you’d think of your mommie.  Lots of love, Mum.”

On this chilly day, Chapter 10, Page 27 in my book of Opportunity, I sip steaming,  hot tea from my lovely tea cup given to me by one of my own dear daughters as I write these words.  I think of my mother, her life, and all the things she taught me like cherishing memories from an old, faded autograph book.  I think she taught me well and I pray I’ve taught my own daughters the same.

Copyright ©2011 mamasemtpynest.wordpress.com