Plagiarizing the words of writer Louisa May Alcott, “What do girls do who haven’t any mothers to help them through their troubles?” Looking back, sometimes our mothers were our troubles telling us what to do, what not to do and how come you haven’t done it already?
I’m finding as I near the ages my mother went through that I have a maternal kinship with her that wasn’t there as we kids were growing up. I was kinda scared of her as a child because she was the family disciplinarian – she was a stay-at-home mom – and having rules being obeyed were high on her Mother job description. Being Italian, we learned that not behaving was begging to have the old wooden spoon brought forth. The spoon rarely made contact, and we never tried to negotiate with it. Along with her ‘weapon’ was the threat of our Dad coming home and taking his belt off to spank us. Which never happened – our Dad never had to do that nor could we picture him doing it. We listened.
I didn’t always agree with Mom – she was strict and hands on – but when I had children of my own, I saw her with different eyes ….and still do. I understand many of her ways now and how truly unselfish and generous she was. She put Dad first and she was a good role model for us. A happy marriage brings forth happy kids.
We weren’t far behind in her attention and love. She celebrated all holidays by decorating the house and filling it with wonderful aromas of delicious food that she provided. Sometimes she would have something different to eat from our dinners, explaining that she felt like a hamburger instead when we finally realized when we were older that there wasn’t enough in our family of 7 for her to join us with more expensive cuts.
She made religious holidays special although Christmas presents weren’t abundant and sometimes not given at all. But we four daughters and one son remember the magical feeling surrounding these festivities.
She was the daughter of immigrant parents who had eleven children. Mom went to school up to the sixth grade as did her husband. His asset was math & numbers and he worked hard all his life. She was his strength at home, leaving it only to cook for the priests at church. She also crocheted their linens & altar cloths. Her proudest achievement – the priests asked her to ‘teach home economics’ at the school. She put her heart and soul into that – one day she told me, “I was one of 11 children and the only teacher”. Her recipes were printed in the hometown paper – she never sought the attention she got.
When I became a mother, she was my greatest asset. She taught me so much about babies that aren’t in baby books and they thrived. She didn’t baby her own daughters – she taught us to be strong. When the doctor told me once that I had ‘tired mother’s syndrome’ – I called her and she said, “Eat a piece of cheese when you are tired – you aren’t eating properly and you need protein.” It worked. Somehow, the hardships of being a parent was offset by her humor – being silly and laughing. Sharing laughs make a happy home. And both parents laughed and got silly with us often.
This was my mother who watched over each one of us like special house guests, bought us occasional presents on the family credit card which was used rarely but a big deal for the receiver when she did it. When we all eventually left the family home, she was our biggest fan. Up until the time she passed away, whenever any of us visited, she placed a big brown shopping bag near the door to put things in as we visited. When we left. it was filled to overflowing with food, gifts, clothes for us or the kids – and her touch, too, with anything made with love for us to bring home. I send brown bags home now, too.
Sophia Loren, the Italian actress, made the comment, “When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. You are connected to your child and to all those who touch your lives. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.”
Our mom did a lot of thinking about and for her 5 children. We are forever grateful for her caring, sharing and the love she shared and never asked for anything in return. As I reach each birthday milestone, I am reminded of that same birthday milestone in her life and see her with an appreciation for each one – that I hadn’t realized before.
God couldn’t be everywhere…so He created Mothers.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Marie Coppola May 2018