I’ve never called her Mother. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever used that word when talking about her. A “mother” is a regal defender of truth, standing at the pinnacle of virtue with her children-jewels arrayed in her crown of glory. No, she’s just mom, the lady who used to yell at me, spank me, ground me, and make me wear Toughskins and Pro-Wings. (I know… child abuse.)
I can’t look back on my life and conjure any Ensign-like stories from my relationship with my mom. She stayed home to raise her kids but I don’t think she’d consider it “courageous”. She was there when we scratched our knees but she wasn’t tender and smiley like a Johnson & Johnson ad. We hug when we reunite or say goodbye, but we don’t put our arms around each other when we sit on the couch together. That would be weird.
Mom had a bunch of schemes, programs, pinwheel-charts and star-graphs. Sometimes with rewards, but usually the reward was food and shelter. I hated doing dishes, floors, “households” and Saturday work. Her daily 15-minute naps yielded “nap candy” if we were quiet. After a set number of weeks, her self-ranking church-reverence chart generated a wrapped gift taken from her gift-cupboard. When I complained that being “assistant cook” was turning into “head cook” she changed the name to “apprentice cook”. All that work would surely have taken less time if she just did it herself (“I accidentally said ‘yes’”) but because of those chores and charts I know how to cook, sew, clean, iron, garden, do laundry and decorate a cake.
Of course I also learned that the word “Sale” didn’t mean anything unless it was at least 50% off the markdown. And if you want to know the easiest way to figure out what 80% off of $67 is, she can tell you a formula any poor, southern Idaho-raised girl can learn in a flash. I used to be embarrassed when Mom would take me to the thrift store to buy clothes. She’d tell me I shouldn’t feel so bad because the other kid was probably as embarrassed that I saw him as I was him seeing me. Of course when I had to pay for my own clothes those rack-scanning skills became crucial in my quests for clothing bargains.
If Mom ever had preconceived ideas of what she wanted me to be someday I never knew it. When piano lessons didn’t stick (any of the three times) she enrolled me in a portraiture class. When I excelled, she pushed me to take it further. Now I think she likes telling people her son got a Masters from a New York City art school and is a professional designer in SoHo. That’s fine with me, because of her encouragement I get to have a career in something that I love doing.
In high school I bore my testimony in a youth conference and I suggested that our parents probably know more than we, as teens, give them credit for. This was immediately followed by a roar of laughter, but I was serious and didn’t get why they were laughing. Spiritually you couldn’t find two more different people than Mom and Dad. Dad thinks his way through things, Mom feels her way through. She knew and did what was right because it was right. You don’t just skip church because you don’t feel like going. We’re doing FHE whether we gain something from it or not. We’re reading scriptures before you all go to school and that’s the end of it. There was no complex logic backed up by historical and scriptural references to give credence to this endeavor. It was right so we did it.
I was hard on my mom, I hated the chores she made me do and I hated the rules she imposed on me. But her tenacity is what made me into who I am today. I don’t think she was being “brave”, I think she was just doing everything she could think of to raise her kids in righteousness. And she was amazing at it.