Sunday, May 8, 2011

What She's Taught Me

It's Mother's Day. That means we are all going to read about how wonderful people's mothers are, because, well, it is the day for that.

There will be many overblown, overly sentimental posts on Facebook and in the blogosphere, some of which will make you wonder if the mother your friend waxes eloquent about today is the same mother your friend talks about the rest of the year. 

Well, here's the way I see it.

I think it's a fine, fine thing to pay loving tribute. If you are lucky enough to have a mother who is living, she needs to be celebrated --even in audaciously glowing terms. If your mother has passed away, she deserves to be remembered. This is not to say that anyone should participate in the love fest publicly if it doesn't feel right to do so. For pity's sake, this is not a contest.

But if it were, of course, I would win.

My mother, born Jean Porter McCord, is the stuff of legends. 

She was the tomboy who beaned the object of her affections upside the head from the vantage point of a chinaberry tree. (He would become her husband, and he remains the great love of her life even today. But he makes a point to avoid chinaberry trees now.) 

She was an athlete in her college days and beyond, when she struck terror in the hearts of the tennis mom circuit at the Montgomery Country Club. People still talk about her mastery of the courts, and in reverent tones recollect when she finally had to stop playing because her arthritis got to her. They don't want you to know that they were, in turn, heartbroken at her retirement, and mightily relieved that now one of them would have the chance to rise to the top. 

She can play the spoons, and every Saturday night before church at Trinity Presbyterian when we were growing up, she rolled my sister's and my hair up with cotton Buster Brown socks because that made the softest curls. She made our clothes, and they were beautiful. 

She was a very talented pianist, and it was listening to her play when I was little that made me want to play, too. I worked hard, but I always fell short of her natural ability.

Any of her children will tell you that we would gladly skip every other Thanksgiving and Christmas food as long as her cornbread dressing is there. Although she entrusted the making of her potato salad to me a long time ago, my brothers can still point out to me every time exactly how it isn't exactly the same. And she can make at least one grown man do her bidding at any time just with the promise of her pimento cheese.

She once plowed her father's brand new Cadillac through the closed garage doors, over there on Park Avenue. That had something to do with that boy she beaned from the chinaberry tree, too.

So -- what, exactly did my mother actually teach me?

Unconditional love. Truly unconditional love, the kind that means you have to put self last. She is a pro at that.

Lack of patience with nonsense, summed up in her reminder that to disengage from such, one must "cut off the puppy dog's tail," a tag line from a story she told us all when we were growing up having to do with a little dog and the necessity of docking its tail in the kindest, quickest way possible. 

It probably, though, is this last lesson that has come to mean more and more to me as I've grown a little older myself. The lesson is that, no matter how nuts your life gets, or how many things you must develop a stiff upper lip about, or how much you pour yourself out into the lives of those people you love most, you must always keep a little bit of your truest self "in there" and people need to know who that truest self is.

Happy Mother's Day, Jeanie Beanie Bad Egg.


  1. I've said it before. Your mom and mine would have been great friends. Of this I have no doubt.

  2. Love the sentiment and so true. Why wax lyrical about one's momma if the other 364 days of the year she nary gets a mention. Though I would never presume to mock those who do, for whatever reason they choose.

    That photo above remains my favourite photo of your sweet momma.

  3. Yes, of course you are the winner. Somehow, you are my inspiration.

    Don't ask me!

  4. I kind of forced my daughter to read this by sending her the link thru email, asking her to read it. She replied that it was very well-written but I think she got a lot more out of it than that.:.) If that's the main lesson your mother taught you then we should all be so blessed. Pretty awesome.

  5. Forgive me. Her exact words were: It really is beautifully written.