Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother's Day

No matter who we are, no matter what stage of life we're in - surely Mother's Day is a wonderful time to reflect, to enjoy and to hope.

I have had so many excellent examples of motherhood in my life. The most important - of course - was my own mother, Dorothy Anne Walton Brannon. My grandmothers Ruth Lund Walton and Grace Vann Brannon have also been very involved and influential in my life.

But today as I celebrate motherhood - I wanted to tell you a little about the incredible children that have been sent to my home. I have chosen short little stories about each one that I hope will help you to get a glimpse of what fun children they were and what fine people they are.

Cathy has taught me many important lessons, but one that I remember vividly (because it haunts me) took place when she was about 10. I did a lot of cross-stitching back then and for mother's day she found a wooden hoop and a three-yard piece of pink gingham (that I used to make baby quilts) in my material box. She cut a circle right out of the middle of the material and cross-stitched "Mama" with white thread. Then she mounted it in the hoop. When she gave it to me I was upset about the wasted fabric and pointed out the fact that you couldn't see what she'd sewn because of her thread color choice. I'll never forget the look of disappointment on her face. I realized that the material was unimportant but Cathy's feelings and her efforts were priceless and apologized. I kept that little cross stitch hanging on my wall for many years as a reminder.

Laura was seven years old when my cousin, Lara Bennett, got married. We flew to Dallas so my girls could be bridesmaids and while we were visiting with various relatives, some of her older cousins asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Without hesitation she said, "I want to be a mom." Then, after a few seconds of thought, she added, "And if I'm a mom I'll be too busy to do anything else." She got some practice at being a mom when Clay was born. We put the crib in her room (for lack of another option) and I remember several times seeing her walk past my door with a bottle in her hand in the middle of the night. She had gotten up, made him a bottle and was going to feed him without even waking me up. She has now realized her dream and is a full-time mom with a precious little boy of her own.

Jamie is our oldest son and until Tommy was born (when he was 4) he was the only boy and had 3 sisters. So life was hard sometimes. One day right after Grace was born I was feeding her and he came to sit by me on the couch. He showed me a nickel he had found and I suggested that instead of spending it - he should save it. Sensing a teaching opportunity, I explained that when he grew up he'd have to work hard and save money so he could have a wife and family. From my carefully worded lecture - he got that he needed money to buy a wife and said, "I'm going to buy a wife with my nickel." I figured it was hopeless to try and correct this misconception at that point so I just nodded. He sat by me for a few more minutes. Then looked up at me, opened his hand to expose the nickel, and said, "Do you want to buy a wife?"

Grace has always been soft-hearted and one experience I remember well was when we had a litter of puppies. The mother dog wouldn't feed one puppy and kept pushing it to the side of the dog bed. We tried feeding it milk but it wouldn't swallow and finally we accepted that it was just a matter of time until the puppy died. We were all sad and a little disturbed and I was anxious for the whole bad experience to be overwith. We kept checking for signs of life, dreading the moment when we'd have to pick up the dead puppy and dispose of it. Then Grace said, "Can I hold it til it dies?" I was so touched by her compassion and willingness to put her own fears aside to comfort the dying puppy if possible. So she held the puppy until it's short life was over.

Tommy has always been one of my most friendly and independent children so I didn't expect any problems from him when he started a half day 4 year old kindergarten class. But when I was dropping him off on the first day another child started crying and so Tommy did too. I tried to console him - promising that I'd be back soon. But between sobs he said, "When you're gone I won't be able to remember your face!" He finally agreed to stay and the next day I brought him a picture of our family to keep in his cubby and he looked at whenever he got sad. He still carries pictures of home around with him in Ethiopia and shows them to anyone who will let him.

Emily, being the youngest daughter, has been a big help to me. She is very mature and competent. I remember her third grade teacher, Mrs. Thrash, telling me that any time she needed something done - she gave the assignment to Emily. In fact she said, "I honestly believe if I told Emily to go to China and back she could do it." Over the past three weeks she's had to do so many hard things while adjusting to college life and being far from home. I'm so proud of her and I know that Mrs. Thrash was right. Emily can do anything.

Andy is quiet and laid back but witty. One day we were in WalMart and we saw a very old lady who had a terrible cough. She was driving herself around in one of those little scooters the store provides with a basket in front. She coughed constantly and it sounded horrible. We helped her get some things that she couldn't reach on high shelves and then hurried on to finish our shopping. We passed her again on the way to the checkout counters. She was surrounded by WalMart employees. Apparently she had coughed so much she had thrown up. It was embarrassing and I felt so sorry for her. On the way home I was still disturbed and told Andy that if I was ever that old and that sick one of my kids better do my grocery shopping for me so I didn't have an experience like that in WalMart. Andy replied, "Don't worry, Mom. By the time you're that old we'll have you in a nice home."

Clay, being the youngest of eight children, has had a lot of good examples and many hard acts to follow. When Jamie was a teenager he used to talk about the brothers buying land together in Colorado so they could have a cattle ranch. They would sit around talking about the houses they would build and how their wives would be friends and their children would play together while the brothers herded cows. One day after Jamie left for college I was talking to Clay (who was 5) and begged him to promise that he would live with me forever. With complete seriousness he looked at me and said, "I can't do that, Mom. I have to go to Colorado with my brothers."