Sunday, May 8, 2011

"i am her child and that is better than being the child of anyone else in the world” maya angelou

Seriously, I'm writing about her again.  Are you tired of hearing about my sainted moma, imaginary readers?  I'm afraid I can't stop, and in any case, it's at least seasonally appropriate that I write about her today.  Indulge me?

I realized long ago that the unintended lesson I was learning in being my moma's child was about the kind of mother I wanted to be.  This is probably true of most everyone.  Even if the lesson is learned negatively ("I'll never say/do that to my children"), we learn about the ways we do and don't want to parent from our parents.  I know you'll be surprised to hear that I think my moma is the last word in good examples of mothering.  You know, because I never talk about her amazingness or how crazy I am about her.  I'm not a mother, and maybe I never will be, but if I ever am, and if as a mother I ever get anything right, we'll all know it's because of her.

The thing I'm learning lately, the idea that sprang into my head and said "write me" this week, is that besides that showing-me-how-to-be-a-moma example that I've noticed and cherished and taken for granted for the past thirty years, my moma's been teaching me by example all along how to be a daughter.  And since there's no someday or maybe attached to that one, it's what I should have been noticing and cultivating and praying would take root in my grown-up daughter self.

I've always known that my moma loved and was close to her parents.  Gramps and Grams were a part of our daily lives.  We saw them all the time, and it wasn't just because we were adorable and charming grandchildren (though we were) or because my moma sometimes needed free baby-sitting (though she did).  We went to their house every Sunday and Wednesday night after church of my life and most of the Sunday afternoons too.  We went with them--or at least met up with them there--to visit my great-grandmother every week when I was little (wonder where my moma learned about being a good child?).  When my moma started working at Garan, she went to their house every day for lunch and every day after work, to drink coffee and visit.  She spent time with them because it was what she wanted and needed and what they wanted and needed too, because family is her happy place.  Is it any wonder I adore her and the Popster the way that I do having watched her adore her own olds all my life?

My moma remembers and tells stories about Gramps and Grams all the time.  She knows stuff about them as children and recounts details of their lives from before she was born in addition to all the memories from her own life that are wrapped up in G & G.  She knows these stories because she's listened and asked and committed to her heart details, the snippets and vignettes that add up to who her parents are.  Without ever realizing who I was imitating, I can do the same.  When the Handful ask for stories from when I was a little girl, I quickly run out of entertaining or memorable (non-frightening) stories, so I tell stories about Nana (that's what the Handful call my moma).  Her stories are my best ones.  And in the same way we pass along stories about our beloved Gramps, whom the Handful never knew, I want to believe that someday Pointer, Bird, Ring, Pinkie, and Thumb will be telling their own kiddos (or grandkiddos) about Nana and the escaped panther or all the dog stories or how she and the Popster first met as little neighbor children (to be honest, I make this one more romantic than it actually is, but it makes up in charm and good storytelling what it lacks in truth).

But being a daughter isn't all sweetness and perfection and heart-warming anecdotes, and my moma (and her sisters to share the love and appropriate credit where it's due) shows me that too, the bravery and heartache and sacrifice of being a daughter.  Right now we're living through a time of concern and uncertainty and prayerful worry for Grams, my moma's moma.  It's not been easy on any of us, but the truth is that she's been slowing and weakening at varying rates of speed for a long time now.  Nothing about that changes the love and devotion and joy that my moma has in Grams, but it does, I think, complicate it.

It's that role reversal common to most families, where the person who has always taken care of you starts requiring care.  I've watched my moma do this for years, even before Gramps died.  She sorted out their medicines and drove them to the doctor and came and drank coffee with them every day so they wouldn't be bored or lonely, and it's only gotten bigger since Gramps died and Grams aged.  It was such a natural progression in our lives that I didn't always realize how it might sometimes be inconvenient or how it must hurt her to have to become the strong one, the caregiver.  I didn't know it was brave or difficult or a sacrifice because it just looked like love.  It didn't look like a choice because to a daughter who has always cherished her moma and daddy it was the only choice.

That's the lesson she's teaching me these days:  an example that's declaring war on my selfish nature and a love that is patient and kind, that always protects and always perseveres, that never fails.

Happy Mother's Day to my moma and her moma.  May I someday be a daughter worthy of them.


  1. Oh, succeeded in collapsing me into a puddle of tears. Our Gramps and Grams indeed have the best daughters in the world. And we have the best mother in the world, and being her child IS better than being anyone else's. She has set quite the example. But you, my dear shishter, are already a daughter worthy of them. I love you, and I love that you are telling their story.

  2. Want to know my favorite thing about your momma and her sisters and Grams? It's that they're not just mommas to their kids. They're mommas to everybody, and as someone who is privileged to be on the receiving end of a ton of that "fringe" love, I am exceedingly grateful and and glad to know that those of you blessed enough to be official parts of the clan understand just how blessed you are.

  3. Ellen, this is a very touching tribute to your Mother. It makes me realize I need to do a better job of telling Lauren and Taylor about my Mother and my Grandmother. They got to experience Ruth firsthand even if it was for only 8 years and five years.

    My nieces never got to have my Mother tell them bedtime stories that she acted out in vivid detail using different voices for each story and the different characters in the story. They need to know the meet cute of my parents. How in 1943, the first grade teacher misquoted a Bible verse and my six years old Mother corrected the teacher. How the teacher told my Mother she would have to apologize or she would be spanked the next day and how my Dad spoke up and said my Mother was right and my Dad was told he would be spanked too. How both parents were sent homes with notes to their parents and my Popa Cleo telling the teacher she was not to spank my Mother and how My Dad was ready to be spanked for My Mother.
    The girls need to know about my Mother who despite managing an office for US Soil Conversation Office took her lunch hour every October 21 to bring my class cupcakes for my birthday and who learned this from her Mother (Lydia did this for DeAnne and I after my Mother died) and the Mother who planned special birthday parties for Jimmy, DeAnne, and me and the joy she got from having 20 or more kids at these parties. How Uncle Bill and Uncle Jimmy were her boys until we acted up and she would tell our Dad, “Bill, please take care of your sons”. How after Daddy died, Jimmy and I were both shocked when our Mother spanked us for the first time. I did not know my Mommy knew what a belt was because My Daddy always did that.

    The girls need to see more photos of my Mommy and then Taylor will truly see where she get her fashion sense at such an early age. My Mommy always looked like she stepped out of the pages of Vogue.

    My nieces want me to tell them more about their Grana Dee and I have a hard time doing that because it makes me miss her more. But the girls need to know whyI laugh at this every time they ask me about Grana Dee. My Mom’s friend, Peggy, has told me on numerous occasions there is no way they would be calling her anything with the word Grand in it. Peggy said my Mommy would be called Dee Dee or something to that effect. My Mom loved children and wanted grandchildren, but she did not want to be called grandmother.

    Lauren and Taylor need to hear the story of the day my Shane was born and how their Great Grandmother Lydia took one look at Shane and said “You know your Mom would be over the moon about her grandson, but she would not be too happy about him making her a grandmother two months before she turns 48.” I replied “That is what she gets for marrying at 19 while she was in college and having me at 22.”
    Thank you for making me realize how much I really need to share my Mommy and my Daddy with my nieces.

    Sorry to hijack your wonderful tribute to Vickye, but now I can email Lauren and Taylor the link to your blog and I cannot get around talking about my Mommy to them.

    Anyway to take this back to your wonderful Mother, aunt, and Grams, Vickye, Mackye and Grams should be proud of the exceptional job they have done with the five children/grandchildren that I have met.

    From my viewpoint, Ellen you are a great daughter to your Moma and a great granddaughter to Grams. As I have said before, I am keeping Grams at the forefront of my prayers.


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