What makes a writer write? We are geared for reflecting, and we value putting language onto memories, and some of us do it for the sake of helping others keep tuned to the positive traits of their humanness, such as kindness. Writers in the memoir genre may involve ourselves in nuanced descriptions of a childhood memories, which helps readers tap into their feelings of love, appreciation, or other emotions about their mothers or parent figures. If I write human-interest stories (interesting enough to attract readers) that build a backstory on behalf of mothering, I will have helped our society’s next generation.
It is hard to put language on the intense love daughters have for their mothers. One could start by saying that we daughters came out of our mothers’ bodies and suckled from our mothers’ breasts, which says quite a bit. And then, we suckled our own babies and understood the unique bond. But beyond those biological realities, it is next to impossible to describe what it feels like to be a daughter thinking about her mother, living or deceased.
I cannot imagine a mother of reasonable health unable to identify the immense positive emotion that accompanies the carrying, birthing, suckling, and rearing of a baby. And even beyond those wonderful experiences, a mother of a daughter stands to gain something great later– another woman friend for life. The two have an eternally braided history.
My mother was good at being neighborly, and she was a strong communicator as a sibling, disciplined in regular telephoning. Mama was the seventh of seven children. Like clockwork, she would put in a phone call to some of her brothers and sisters or their spouses. “Tell everybody hello!” was a common expression among our relatives, used to close out every phone chat. “I love you” was also freely spoken in our family.
Mama Dialogue: Mama, we had warmth between us. It stemmed from your keen eye and ear. You were a constant psychologist/psychoanalyst, never missing anything of the heart. You were not in a hurry. Your key trait was availability. Your children and husband had you 110%. Nothing interested you more than giving attention to your children and husband. If we needed guiding or correction, you had the background of the issue at hand, because you had been alert to its development. The things that you did were plain and simple good mothering. I do not know how to thank you or detail to anyone what it has meant. Even when my older sister Glenda and I have tried to describe your skill in mothering, we end up sounding like elite braggarts. We just thank our lucky stars for you and Daddy, and the love that you gave each other that created us and our little sister, who we got to “mother” along with you beginning in 1956.
The kind of love for mothers by their daughters I am attempting to describe is akin to the gratitude someone might feel toward an insightful physical therapist or chiropractor that has a healing gift. Although never licensed as a nurse, Mother’s nursing orientation showed itself frequently to me, a school kid who caught every sore throat that came along. Every cold and flu season I was one infection away from going to the hospital to have my huge tonsils taken out. This went on from first through third grade. Once my fever was so high I lay in bed talking about the things I saw on the wall that were not really there. Much later I learned the term—“hallucination.” What I knew at that tender time was simply that Mama watched me when I was at home sick, missing school. Whether sore throat, ear ache, three-day measles, three-day measles again, red measles, or chicken pox, I went to bed, and Mama watched me closely, checking my temperature with a mercury thermometer under the tongue and bringing me liquids ranging from water, to chicken noodle soup, to warm Jell-O. These accompanied my saltines for easy digestion. In those days, tonsils were swabbed with merthiolate on a six-inch-long wooden Q-tip by some mothers. I had that kind of mom-nurse.
In the years before school, Mama, without a shadow of a doubt, checked on me, keeping me from harm, as she went about her remarkable sewing. She had a gift for it and loved it for many years. She did so many things to make a clean, happy home out of that little house on Avenue I, the house I was born into, and that my sister Debbie was born into eight years later. It was a good neighborhood. What a kind and engaging family Carl, Nadine, LaWanda, and Sandy were. We would never be able to express the huge good fortune lasting two generations that was the experience of living next door to that family.
There, you now have a few words from my memoir about my mother, Zelma Louise.