A tribute to my mom
Around the time I was seven years old, my father officially exited my life about the same time he exited his marriage. And that’s when it began — my mother’s job as sole parent.
My mother was the disciplinarian. Once I threatened to move out and go live with my father. Her answer was to calmly pack my bags. I made it as far as the mailbox (which was attached to the house) before I rethought the process and asked to come back home. She opened the door smiling and never said a word. This was the kind of mother she was, she would let me do as I wanted, take flight when needed, but was always there when I returned.
My mother was fiercely creative and there was little store bought anything. She made a fort with carpeting and a desk for me between the fence and garage. It even had a roof made from an old kiddie pool. From clothes she made to birthday parties she created, everyone wanted what I had.
I was “Mrs. Hickson’s” daughter. She was an elementary school teacher, and not just any teacher, but “THE” teacher. Every kid on the block wanted to be in her class and those that had the opportunity to be taught by her were the better for it.
I had to share her with lots of kids, and being an only child, sharing wasn’t top on my list of priorities.
We never went to Disney or on a cruise or anything like that, but I always had the best of adventures. She would put me in the car after church on Sunday and say, “now which direction do you want to go?” We would drive off left or right or straight ahead never sure of where we would end up. Admittedly at times it would scare the tar out of me because I was terrified of getting lost. But we never did. My mother’s gift was that she could take the ordinary and make it quite extraordinary.
We didn’t always see eye to eye and I know in hindsight I made her life quite tough. She didn’t ever complain about it, never did a “poor me” song and dance, she would just stick it out and ride in the wake of whatever disaster I was creating.
She was always there, even when I didn’t want her there. She would say, “I am your mother first whether you like it or not. You have plenty of friends, you don’t need me to be your friend, you need me to be your mother.” She wasn’t always the mother I wanted her to be, but I now see she was clearly the mother I needed her to be.
My mother taught me simple plumbing, how to use hand tools, sing, play the piano, an appreciation for classical music and a love for color. She taught me how to knead bread and make hospital corners on a bed and that wonton soup is best for curing the common cold. She taught me most of what I know and all that I don’t give her credit for having taught me too. I come by almost all of my gifts and creative inspiration from one place: my mother.
So this year on Mother’s Day there will be no Hallmark card, no mindless gift or photo of the kids. The best gift I can give her is to pay it forward. No card or gift will ever do her work justice. I will simply try to be the best mother I can for my own children. I will be their mother first. I will encourage them even when what I want for them is not what they want for themselves. I will be extra-ordinary and make sure that adventures come in different sizes, and all are meaningful. And best of all, I will love my children unconditionally, just as my mother loves me. And, in case you were worried about the no tangible gift thing, I will take her out to lunch, too.
Happy Mother’s Day!
A Yankee with a Southern soul, Gillian Pollock is a wife, mother of two ever-challenging children and director of Christian Formation at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.