Photo: circa 1937. How I love the vintage furniture, doors, and carpet! But most of all, I love the lady pictured there beside the chunky little kid whom I once was. My mother was a Victorian, born in 1896 and she lived to age 93. I cherish memories of her, and think of her every day of my life. As I ”mature”, I frequently add new recollections to my treasure câche of nostalgia.
Lately I’ve been recalling how she had me memorize Psalms 1 and 23, starting when I was about the above pictured age. Every night at bedtime, I recited these Psalms to her. What an imprint. When you consider those Psalms you realize that they beautifully summarize great truths of Scripture. Psalm 1 speaks of man’s condition—both with and without the Lord in one’s life, and Psalm 23 (the most beloved of all!) speaks of the Lord’s tender care for each of His sheep.
Then Mother taught me a little verse, which was added to my bedtime repertoire:
“My heart is God’s little garden
And the flowers blooming there each day
Are the things He sees me doing
And the words He hears me say.”
I recited these gems to my mother until I went off to college.
Mother was equanimity personified. She NEVER raised her voice, NO NEVER.* She didn’t have to. She “walked quietly and carried a big stick”. The big stick was used when necessary, which in my case was fairly often as I was a bit of a rip.
While I grew up, Mother brushed and braided my hair every morning—with the possible exception of Saturdays. This was a giant step, in keeping me “under control”. I was a melodramatic kid who fancied myself a wild Gypsy—and I had the dark, snaggly thick mane to go with my cherished self-image. Mom was committed to keeping me from looking and acting like the turbulent thing I liked to think I was.
Although she would always take a stand against anyone advocating or doing something that was morally or ethically wrong, my mother NEVER said an unnecessarily unkind word about anyone—NO NEVER. Her patience with other humans was incredible. Often, if a derogatory remark was made about someone, Mother would say, “But she means well.” When she decided that someone definitely did not “mean well”, she would simply sigh and remark, “It takes all kinds of people to make a world”.
Only one contradictory sentence ever shadowed Mother’s attitude of forgiveness and goodwill, and it was a very funny one indeed. Over and over throughout the years, I heard her say, “God gave us our relatives; thank God we can choose our friends.”
I hesitate to employ that one liner myself, because my relatives are precious—they are my best friends. But Mom did have some overbearing relations. When reviewing Mother’s life with her pastor before her memorial service, I mentioned the “Thank God we can choose our friends” statement—and he laughed so hard he nearly fell off his chair. He wanted to include that in Mother’s eulogy, but I firmly said “NO”. A couple of remaining, ancient relatives would be at the memorial service and I didn’t want anyone miffed at the eleventh hour of that venerable Victorian generation!
On past Mother’s Day entries, I listed many wonderful things about my mother—how she was proud of her Scottish and Irish heritage, and how she was a hard worker who trained her children to work as well. Mom loved her family and friends, and her loyalty was peerless.
I inherited a lot from this amazing woman—either through the genes or from example. Mother loved all of life, from the largest creature down to the smallest bird or butterfly. She loved cats and dogs, classical music, classical poetry, tea parties, antique glassware, and dressing up every day.
Before my marriage, Mother said, “Don’t ever let your husband come home at night and find you in the old clothes you’ve been wearing for cleaning and gardening. Always dress up, and remember to re-fix your hair and face at least once during an evening—especially after dinner!” This advice is branded in my heart and soul, and it’s an integral part of my life.
Returning to Mother’s spiritual input in my life, I often recall how—when I was around 6 years old—she told me about the early Christian martyrs in Rome. She told how they were put into the arena with hungry lions, and how they (the Christians, not the lions) sang hymns as they were being carried off.
Now isn’t that a strange thing to tell a 6 year old kid? But I’m grateful that she did! The essence of the story stuck with me throughout the years. When I became a Christian believer, at age 37, I began to reflect on that account—and I realized that whatever God was going to allow in my life would be undergirded and enabled by His Grace! Lions are pretty terrifying, but God has conquered fear!
I think of Mother every day. Recent Mother’s Days have been accompanied by a kind of inner aching because I don’t have her here. But I will be seeing her again, FOREVER! How fantastic is that!
Margaret L. Been, ©2012
*I grew up in such a “rose garden”, that I never heard anyone yell—except in a film, or at an exciting basketball game. But there was one exception in the rose garden. I heard my father shout—vehemently!—when my older sister brought home a young Communist whom she was dating at UW, Madison.
Dad and the young Communist (who was fomenting revolution) had a deep discussion, and Dad SHOUTED! This was very exciting to me, as it appealed to my sense of melodrama. The fracas also imprinted some strong political views in my head!
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