Homage to Mama

Posted: May 09, 2004 12:00 AM

God could not be everywhere, and so He made mothers.
--Jewish Proverb

Recently I spent quality time with my mother on the family farm in Marion, South Carolina. We had gathered on Good Friday to celebrate her 78th birthday. Her brothers and sisters attend, as did fifty close friends of the family. Together we guzzled fried chicken and salad while watching canned cranberries dribble down my brother--and soon to be state Senator--Kent's chin. It was nice to catch up and share some time together.

By the end of the trip, my mother had prepared some food to take back to Washington, DC.  While hoisting up an enormous sweet potato pie, she remarked, "You know I do this out of love." I turned to my mother and said, "I love you." I swelled with emotions and she slung her arms around my shoulders. We took a few more minutes to reflect on these fond memories together.

I continued the process on my own as I flew back to DC, entertaining myself with recollections of how my mother nourished my understanding of the world, calmly dispensing unconditional love until it was pressed into my infant mind. As a child, my mother was fond of taking us on spontaneous strolls across our family farm. She would point out an enormous yellow bird strolling across a field, or a rock that glittered with mica. My eyes widened with awe.  

These moments suggested an alternative to those shared with my father, a tough, muscular farmer. His work in the tobacco fields and swine house provided us with a secure life. But as a worker, my father would always seem utilitarian-he strove to possess, shape and mold his surroundings.  But my mother was infused with something greater--as someone who had given birth, and nurtured a child,  she would always be tied to a deeper vitality,  a spring of life.

Most mothers must seem this way to their children-a deep and spiritual source of life. I suppose it is appropriate that, upon birth,  we are literally attached to our mothers. From early on, they are our first models of God.  This unconditional bond-which can manifest itself is acts so simple as a stroll across the family farm-teaches a child what it means to be cherished, teaches a child about the world around him, about emotional needs, about the essence of love. From such interactions,  a child's character is born.

Upon reflection, I recognize many of my mother's traits-some beautiful, some rather tiresome-have been blended into my own self-concept. And so mothers' should always be vigilant about the awesome scale of these small interactions with their child. When a parent is emotionally distant, it wreaks havoc on the passive mind of a child. It tells the child that God is distant; such early lessons are imprinted on a child's character like a birthmark.  "The mind in infancy is like the body in embryo; and receives impressions so forcible, that they are hard to be removed by reason. . . "  noted Sir Richard Steele, on his own " recollections of childhood."

As an adult, I delight in recalling  a mother who so filled my needs as a child and so kindly indulged all of my angst as a young adult. With such memories fixed in my heart, I fondly recall Mrs. Thelma Williams, this Mother's Day and throughout the year.