Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Good Mamas

And now for the good mamas. My mother and her mother are two of them. My mother, Catherine, was one of four daughters (five, actually, but little Frances died at 18 months old, I believe). Grandmother Ilder (don't ask; we have no idea where that name came from) ruled the roost.

Mama - and even we grandkids called her "Mama" because that's what our mothers and aunts called her - was a formidable lady, and I was always a little afraid of her. That's saying a lot, because I've always been a tough cookie myself. But Mama seemed to move about like a big battleship: organizing, lining things up, leading the charge - whether it was getting supper ready or herding us out the door to Vacation Bible School. That's not to say she was mean or nasty - she just had a powerful presence.

Unlike Mama, my own mother - we called her "Mother" - shared home rule with Daddy, but she was pretty powerful on her own. While Mama commanded actions, Mother commanded more subtle stuff like feelings and conscience. The very thought of disappointing her kept me in line for many years, and probably keeps me in line to this day. She was a wonderful mother - no one could've had better.

Love of family came first with Mother and Mama, though I'm sure they'd fight to say that love of God came first (I think He, indeed, ran a close second). Family was what both women were about - the more chaos of children, sisters, brothers-in-law, cousins, the better. And they passed that family love down to their children. I believe we have done the same for our children. We are a close family. That is no small thing.

This is my first Mother's Day away from Kate. Last night, the family gathered at sister Cindy's home for a cookout (sans me and brother Bill - what's your excuse Bro??). As they were unloosening their belts and top buttons after a fine meal, they called me to wish me a Happy Mother's Day. Each one in turn took the phone, asked about New York, and promised to visit. The family stuff is important. Probably the most important, as modeled by Mother and Mama.

I realize not everyone is so lucky. But family is not always blood. For those who aren't close to blood-kin, I do hope you have formed families with someone(s), somehow. Find your family - blood or no - and pass it on. Happy Mother's Day!


Liz said...

I grew up in a house with my mother, grandparents and great-grandmother. My mother went out to work and it was my grandmother who ruled the roost. She was a very strong - and dare I say, domineering - woman. My grandfather was deaf and liked it that way!

But because my great-grandmother, who had eight surviving children, lived with us, our home was the centre of family gatherings, of which there were plenty.

There were also plenty of rows! But let anyone outside the family say anything at all critical of one, and they'd have the whole fmaily to answer to!

I like to think that we are passing the same family-is-important message on to our children.

Hope your day was good, Mary.

Chris said...

You've already put most of my favourite bad mothers in your previous post, Mary, but I've just recalled another one: Diana Rigg in the BBC 4 drama series 'Mother Love'. Unfortunately, I was able to identify the main character with my own mother, although I hasten to add that she didn't resort to murdering anyone that she perceived would be a threat to our relationship; she had her own ways and means.

She ruled me by using guilt as her chosen weapon and I'm afraid that I wasn't a stong enough character to stand up to her.

We lost contact with all relatives on her side of the family, together with those of my father's and step-father's because of her maliciousness.

It has been only since about a year after her death in 2001 that I have felt able to be my own person entirely, free from minor depressions and soul-destroying guilt. I could go on forever but I'm over that now and so I won't.

HOWEVER - I learnt a valuable lesson from all of this and I go out of my way NOT to be like her (although it's her face that looks at me from the mirror every day!). I think that I have succeeded, only my family (and friends) can confirm that. I have a close relationship with my children and, as my husband, who MUST be a saint with some of the things he's had to put up with over the years, once was heard to remark: 'If you were like your mother you wouldn't be living here', I suppose I must be doing something right.

MaryB said...

Liz, fortunately we didn't all live in the same house. For a while, and before Mama went to a nursing home, she sort of traveled around from daughter to daughter. Her increasing dementia prompted Daddy to call her The Goddess of Confusion. Sadly, Mother succumbed to the same dementia (and I'm assuming that will be in my future, too???).

Chris, I've never seen Diana Rigg in Mother Love - must look it up. My mother's use of guilt was just the standard, run-of-the-mill mother-weapon - it was never done to demean us (or it never made me feel that way). I'm glad you didn't perpetuate your mother's methods. It must've been a hard way to grow up.