This Sunday is Mother’s Day (Surprise! Don’t forget to stop at Walgreen’s for a card on your way to visit Mom!). This marks my first Mother’s Day as a mother. Mr. Rachel can’t seem to understand why he has to be responsible for my Mother’s Day celebration (um…because our kid can’t get to the store by himself. Oh, yeah…and he can’t walk or talk) since I’m “not his mother.” Regardless, it should be an enjoyable weekend. Over the two days, we have plans to see all three mothers and one grandmother, go to church, and eat. The eating part is especially important.
In addition to lamenting my personal Mother’s Day celebration, I’ve also been thinking about the role of mother, particularly my mother. Becoming a mother has me looking at my mother a little differently (we still get on each other’s nerves and it’s probably best we live an hour apart, but that’s part of the mother-daughter package). I became a mother on a winter morning. I was a hair over 26 years old. I came to my mother on a winter evening. She was almost 26 years old. The similarities end there. I gave birth to my first, a precious baby boy. I am married to a strong, Godly man. My birth was my mother’s third girl and her marriage to my father would end shortly thereafter. Until experiencing motherhood and examining my reaction to the role, I never really understood the hardships my mother faced and her grace in overcoming them.
My mother raised three girls, often by herself. When she had a man in her life, she added their kids to her own stock and loved them like her own. I look at Squirmy and doubt whether or not I’ll have any other children because I don’t understand how I could love any other baby as much as I love him. Thankfully, this wasn’t an issue for my mother. She loved me (and everyone else’s children) just as much as her first. If there was any difference in the love given between us and her first, I never saw it. Life was hard for my mother, and looking back, it was hard for me. However, I never knew it at the time. She (and others in my life – my oldest sister, my grandmother, my aunts) made me feel loved and fortunate for what I had.
Growing up in the country, I don’t remember being upset about not having the latest cool toy or the nicest clothes. I remember catching minnows in the creek and playing house in the yard, using maple leaves as plates and dandelion greens as “salad.” I remember keeping grasshoppers and crickets as pets inside glass Pepsi bottles. I remember walking my dog to the school playground to play with my friends until dusk. I don’t remember being too poor to buy books. I remember lots of trips to the library to check out Clifford, the Big Red Dog books. I don’t remember never taking vacations. I remember lots of trips to Grandma’s house, which never failed to have something new and exciting to explore (and lots of shopping trips, even though Mom always told me to never ask for anything). I don’t remember the hassle of moving from one place to another. I remember dreaming about who I could be at the new place. I don’t remember the devastation of leaving good friends behind (although I’m sure it was there). I remember learning to love writing as I constantly sent letters back to them.
I could go on and on about how bad life could have been or how good life really was. Ultimately, it came down to my mother. She made mistakes (I will, too), but those mistakes don’t define me, and I hope they don’t define her. Every experience I had, whether the people looking in thought it was good or bad, made me into the person I am. Every moment of every day in the past 26 years and five months made me Rachel. Those experiences taught me to value myself by my standards, not a man’s. Those experiences taught me that no one can or will stand in the way of my education. Those experiences taught me to be a strong woman and a good mother. Five, ten, fifteen years ago, people might’ve said there is no way I could never be anybody. They might’ve said I’ve got too much stacked against me or the statistics are not in my favor. I’m sure they never expected me to graduate high school, then college, then go back to begin work on a second degree. They probably never expected me to have a lasting marriage or to be a good mother. Fortunately, I never knew about their expectations. I saw the strong women in front of me and trudged forward in their footsteps.
Yep…I’m a mom. (It’s the flash — not me — that made him make that face.)
My other “Mommas”