Meditation on Mom

John Gehring

Sitting in a hotel room in Austin, Texas, this Motherís Day I thought about her. The woman who changed my diapers, drove me to school, rubbed away my boyhood bumps and bruises. The woman who packed my lunch every day and sat through countless baseball games on scorching 90-degree Saturdays on some dusty ball field in the middle of nowhere. The woman who, like the good former English teacher she is, still reads my stories on the hunt for comma splices or dangling participles. The woman whom, even at 26, I still call to ask how to make my chicken dinner or what special remedy to use to rid my pants of that tomato sauce stain. The woman who reminded me before my business trip that May 14 was indeed Motherís Day and I would be sure to call.

On television the news reports showed mothers rallying in Washington, D.C., at the Million Mom March. They were there to support gun control legislation and let Congress, the National Rifle Association and others know that they meant business. Maybe it was not being around the table eating another great meal served from the kitchen of a woman who juggles so many tasks in a single day that Barnum and Bailey Circus should sign her up to go on the road, but I began thinking more about my mom and mothers everywhere.

I didnít give much thought to the demands of motherhood as a boy growing up. Like my 16-year-old brother, and sons everywhere, for most of my life I thought God created Mom to wash my dirty underwear or tell me why I couldnít work on my ball handling in the living room. Mom was a mythic figure who handed down yes or no, bedtime curfews and acceptable television shows, surely not a living, breathing human being like the rest of us. In the mind of a child, a mother has no past, no interests or passions other than being Mom.

Iím not sure when I started thinking about my mom as a real person. Having just recently moved out of my parentsí house, I guess I observed longer than most the mother-child relationship up close and how it unfolds and changes over the years. Here was my mother, a bit grayer in the mane, spreading maps of Africa out on the dining room table to help my brother through a social studies project he had dumped on her before stealing off to the basketball court. It didnít seem that long ago when that was my project on the table, and she squinted through tired eyes after a long day of work trying to pinpoint Kinshasa, the capital of Zaire, as her paperwork was pushed aside, the phone rang, the dinner boiled over and I did my part to be understanding by asking every two minutes when dinner would be ready. Seeing her still there at the dining room table years later, I couldnít help thinking that motherhood demands the agility of a crafty captain navigating his boat through a gauntlet of icebergs while making sure his passengersí wine glasses are freshly filled

So there in my Austin hotel room I looked back and realized I had come a good ways these last few years. Sure, my mom will always be Mom in my eyes. The person who still occasionally washes my socks or folds my pants or tells me I still canít work on my ball handling in the house. But I know there is a woman behind the mask that all mothers wear in the eyes of their children. One who has, between all the daily duties that weigh on her and turn her hair grayer, taught me how to live a life.

I still see her coming in too late from work sometimes and wish I could just write her big fat checks so she wouldnít have to do it any more. I know she wishes this sometimes too because she half jokingly asks when I am going to write that best seller so she can retire. I will get there someday. But in the meantime, Mom, thanks for all the times I should have said that but never did.

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