Written August 9 – 25, 2011
For my dear, sweet Mamsie on her birthday.
Indeed, a man may never find a greater treasure trove of love, life lessons, and pearls of wisdom than that of his own mother. Countless authors have tried to encompass the multi-faceted nature of the word “mother,” but often fall short of their goal. How can a mortal being sum up a word that oftentimes seems to circumvent its own meaning? Perhaps certain words weren’t meant to be described by simple authors. Or perhaps, certain words, nouns in particular in this case, are best described by the actions and emotions they evoke and the memories they create.
If asked to describe what the word mother meant to me, my scientific mind would quickly jump to the conclusion of, “the person from whom I received my X chromosome.” However, jumping to such conclusions could later lead to such a response as, “the person from whom I inherited X chromosome linked baldness.” That description has even less appeal in the eyes and mind of you, the reader, my dear Mamsie for whom this essay was written, and me, the potentially bald writer, than did the first description, thus proving my own inability to coin a satisfactory definition to the word. Without delving further into this question in a more philosophical sense, I would be hard pressed to find an exact definition for “mother.” However, God granted me a mind like an old Polaroid camera – the kind where you could snap a photo, give two shakes, and instantly and forever capture a memory. So, perhaps by the end of this bit of maternal rhetoric (for which the introduction is seemingly unending) I will have found a fitting way to define “mother,” or at least in my mind.
My Mother is Clever
To give a little in-depth look into my mother, we should first go back to the root of this continuing saga – the point at which I enter the story. It was around the age of twelve (after that awkward talk we all get – I could write a whole essay solely on those talks) that I began to wonder about my grand entrance into the world. I realized that there were only five months between the time when my parents married (June 27, 1987) and my birth (November 24, 1987). At first, I thought I was a miracle baby that survived a twenty-week gestation. But, having soon learned the meaning of the word “bastard,” I realized that I almost was one!
When I grew older (i.e., when I became a young adult), I questioned my parents about the issue. My dad gave the same shit-eating grin he always does when something tickles him, and muttered something about “boxing the bear.” (That phrase isn’t even defined in Urban Dictionary! It’s all his own.) My mother, being her usual candid self, recounted the usual story of meeting Dad at the local Bonanza Steakhouse, one of the apparent hotspots for singles back in the day. She then continued on into unfamiliar terrain – the period between that fateful shift at Bonanza and primiparity.
If there was ever a pregnant teenager that could pull the wool over someone’s eyes, it was my mother. How she convinced two educated individuals (i.e., my grandparents) that she had persistent nausea, vomiting, and weight gain for four months straight without setting off any kind of parental alarms is beyond my cognition. I can picture her running amok as a teenager, carrying on with the day-to-day grind of the senior year of high school. “Oh, that vomit? That’s okay. No need for prenatal care here! Nothing that a little Dramamine won’t quell, ya know!” Alas, though, the farce was blown when a message was left for her about registering for WIC. It was a good run, though! I’m still kind of impressed. Having heard just this one story, I understand what Mamsie meant when she once told me, “You won’t be able to pull any of that shit with me!” She literally meant it! She knew the tricks when I was growing up, because if you look at it into perspective, we sort of grew up together. After all, when she was my age, I was five… She often harps about me putting her into a nursing home in her advanced age. I remind her that I’ll probably need one first! Even more so, she’ll be the clever Fountain View resident to escape over a fence in the courtyard anyway.
My Mother is Protective
My mother is an only child, and I ended up that way, too. There’s something about the mothers of only children that isn’t quite like those with multiple kids. I think it’s an over sensitization to anything that could go wrong in that child’s life. The mother hen characteristics are strong in most every mother. Mother’s of only children, though, are more like mother hawks. My mother is no exception to this behavior. Just the other day, she called to tell me that she bought me a hammer to keep underneath the driver’s seat of my car. “I don’t like you going into St. Louis all the time. Keep it under there in case someone tries to carjack you. That way, you can just roll down the window and hit ‘em between the eyes. This one has a really good claw on it, too!”
This is just one recent prime example of my mother’s protective nature. It’s not unusual for me to hear things like:
- “Don’t be riding your bike on the side of the highway. That’s where people come up behind you and shoot you in the back of the head.”
- “I don’t want you walking to the library at night. You know how people get raped and sodomized all the time on college campuses.”
- “Wait ‘til your dad gets home to eat that chicken. I don’t want you choking.” (This particular episode was when I was at the young age of sixteen. The chicken was boneless.)
- “Don’t forget to keep your doors locked. Do you still keep a gun close by your bed?”
- “I saw on Dateline NBC where two friends were hiking in the woods and got eaten by bears. Is that what you want? Me worrying about you being eaten by bears?”
- “You make yourself a doctor’s appointment right now, you hear! It’s could be a tumor.”
- “Don’t wear that shirt – you’ll get your ass kicked!”
I could go on and on about my overly protective mother, but I think you get the picture. Although I do think she takes Dateline NBC a tad too seriously, I know that deep down her quirky remarks come from a genuine concern and worry for her only hatchling.
My Mother is a Force to be Reckoned With
To say that my mother is a force to be reckoned with is an understatement. I’m a grown man twice her size, and I still fear the back of her hand. Of course, I was a pretty good kid for the most part, so it was pretty rare for her to have to light my woods on fire. However, she didn’t hold back on anyone that she thought that might be short-changing her Bubby. I suppose this goes hand in hand with her protective nature.
As a child, I recall always being able to turn to Mamsie if I was being picked on, upset, or angry. I remember a bigger kid cutting in front of me in line at a concession stand once. Soon after, he learned that Mama Stace has really sharp elbows. Another time, after literally working for nine months perfecting a piano sonata, a contest judge made me cry with his harsh critiques. It wasn’t long after that that Mamsie had that sorry son of a bitch (her description; not mine) backed into the corner of a room, her index finger edging closer and closer to his chest with each torrent of maternal obscenities. To this day, Mams will still ruffle her feathers if something has me bothered. “Oh, that awful professor has you all worked up again? That son of a bitch will think twice about that when I get up there!” She never ceases to make me smile when she gets worked up!
My Mother is a Lady…In Certain Ways
My Mamsie recently told me, “You know, I think I turned out to be pretty ladylike. I’m prim and proper.” I chortled a bit when she said this. On some things, I would say she is prissy – the kind of prissiness that doesn’t like to kill spiders or get dirty. But “prim and proper” struck me a bit funny. In fact, when she said this, the only thing I could think of was a vision of her in my mind in the summertime doing one of her favorite summer activities: puffing away on a cigarette while she flips burgers on a grill. “You know how it is,” she’d say. “Sometimes you just want drag off a ciggy, and I like to do it while I flip burgers!” If that doesn’t say “ladylike,” I don’t know what will!
My Mother Always Makes Me Laugh…Hysterically
My Mamsie is by far the funniest person I know. Whether it is her rendition of the Nelly classic Hot In Herre, or one of her sarcastic diatribes, she never ceases to make me laugh. Even if her sarcastic attacks go straight for my gullet, I still cannot help but laugh. For instance, she recently wrote a letter to me as if it was written by me. “Hello, I hope you feel worthy of having your nose up my ass, because you’re not. I enjoy my crisp button-down shirts, jazz, and dry martinis, and I go to Asshole University,” she wrote. She has that kind of way of words that makes me laugh hysterically, yet reminds me not to get too big of a head.
Some of my mother’s most hilarious moments are when she’s not even really trying to be funny – they just happen, because that’s how she is. For example, my mother’s most sincere thoughts never fail to give me a little chuckle, especially if it comes to things like religion. “You know those Jews don’t have Jesus in their heart, so don’t even think about going to temple.” “This here’s the Bible Belt; we’ll shoot your ass for doing stuff like that here.”
Some of my mother’s antics may appear somewhat zany, if not completely insane if you didn’t know the woman. My mother’s pure slapstick humor comes out every night around 10:00 p.m. – after she’s had her nightly Ambien (and she will kill me for sharing these stories). It’s not unusual for me to get a call on my cell phone when I’m home only to receive an order for whatever late night munchies she’s craving.
- “Bring me three cheese doodles with a spoonful of peanut butter.”
- “Go peel me a raw potato, and put just a little smidgeon of salt on it. Just a pinch, ya know.”
- “If you don’t hurry your ass up here with my Doritos, it’s not going to be pretty.”
Mildly insane? Perhaps. But let’s be honest, who among us doesn’t have those funny little quirks that make us who we are.
My Mother is Unique
I think it is clearly evident now that I have perhaps the most unique mother in America, if not the world. If you didn’t know her, you’d think she was a little off, and perhaps she is. But, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and I’m equally in left field. Perhaps that’s why we have such a good mother-child relationship. As Mom would say, “It takes all kinds…” Up to this point, I’ve done a fairly decent job describing my interaction with my mother, but I still feel that I haven’t fully defined “mother,” as I set out to do in the beginning of this essay. Perhaps, that’s because I’ve yet to get to the cornerstone of who my mother truly is.
My Mother is Loving
Underneath it all – the sarcastic remarks, the fierce mother hawk, the Marlboro puffing grill master – is a woman with a heart the size of Texas. Without a doubt, the Lord couldn’t have blessed me with anyone that would offer up so much love and support than my mother. Surely something divine happened that fateful night so long ago when my parents met at that popular hot spot I mentioned earlier. All my life, I’ve been inundated with maternal love, and for that I am so very thankful. However, my mother’s love extends far beyond myself. She extends that love to her family, friends, church family, and the community. Much of her loving nature goes unrecognized, as she wishes to take no credit for her kind acts. She touches the lives of many who may not even know her name. She’s touched the lives of people from Carrier Mills to Senegal. I’ve learned more from my mother by her actions than any Dateline NBC lessons she imparts.
My mother has been a driving force in defining the man that I am today. She’s taught me to be humble, to give back to my fellow man, and to show compassion to all people. She’s taught me to aspire for great things, to never give up hope, and to not stress too much. She’s taught me to love and serve the Lord, and I know that there’ll be hell to pay if I happen to miss a Sunday service.
So, as I conclude this brief tribute to my mother, I think back to the original question I posed. How do you define mother? As I’ve demonstrated, my mother is quite unique, and perhaps there really isn’t a proper way to give a finite definition to such a term. The way I define it is likely different than that of other sons. So who is my mother? Well, she’s the insanely funny, fiercely overprotective, nurturing, and loving person who has molded me into the person I am today. Not to mention, the she’s the person from whom I received my X chromosome.
Happy birthday, Mamsie! I love you!