Wednesday, February 27, 2008


One of the very few reasons I had any respect for my mother when I was thirteen was because she would reach into the sink with her bare hands - bare hands - and pick up that lethal gunk and drop it into the garbage.  To top that, I saw her reach into the wet garbage bag and fish around in there looking for a lost teaspoon.  Bare hands - a kind of mad courage.

 ~Robert Fulghum

Mom and Benjamin in 2004


I was the one who had the mother everyone else wanted. I can't tell you how many times I heard a friend say, "I wish I had your mother." There were times that I wished they had her, too. Like when she would make me wear the same dress two church services in a row, or when she served pickled herring and sour cream, or when she laughed earlier and louder than anyone else, or when she insisted on giving multiple robust kisses to me when I was in the middle of a serious prima donna diatribe, or when she punished me for being later than my curfew by necking with my father on the front porch (believe me, after you and your date have seen your parents doing that, you will NEVER push a curfew again), or the three years in a row that she insisted on announcing our late arrival to church by sneezing loudly (her side of the family would never DREAM of a close-lipped "kersnitsch" when a hefty "AAAAA-CHOOOO!" is available) every time we entered the sanctuary, where she was allergic to the carpet.


But, sneezes and odd fish aside, I knew even then that I was pretty blessed ... exceptionally blessed. Mom never gave in to my compliment-fishing ("Pretty is as pretty does") or my self-pity ("You know, I went to college with a girl who wore the same dress EVERY MONDAY. And EVERY TUESDAY, she wore the same other dress. And EVERY WEDNESDAY...") or my self-righteousness ("If you dislike sitting next to her in class so badly, perhaps we should have her over to spend the night so that you can learn how to be gracious"). She has an uncanny knack for prioritizing and would never dream of letting fatigue get in the way of worship or a messy house in the way of hospitality. Her favorite question to ask in response to my dramatic expressions of conflict was, "Well, what does the Bible say?"


Still, I was a typical teen. The ultimate put-down to hear was, "You look just like your mother." But there came a day, after I had married and left her house, when I walked into her office to find her wearing the same outfit I was wearing.


And now I can't think of a better compliment. When people tell me that I am just like my mother, I know they're not talking about the fact that we're both wearing maroon and Birkenstocks. They mean that, for whatever reason, I have been REAL about something. I've seen past the drama and emotion to the core of the issue, and I've directed someone back to Scripture. I've seen the humor in something and been brave enough to laugh earlier and louder than anyone else. I've embraced a situation and thoroughly lived the sneeze. I've made sure my kids were hugged and kissed sloppily and often and haven't given a thought to whether they wore this outfit in front of this crowd last time.


I don't often get this compliment; but when I do, you better believe I relish it.


I think "mad courage" describes my mother well. She has done more than fish gross gunk (and gross fish) from the bottom of the sink. She has fished through the muck of five teenagers and made each of us feel like we were her favorite. She has weathered countless opinionated family dinners, each of us speaking loudly and forcefully with no consideration of whether anyone was listening. She has cuddled grandbabies while balancing a spoon in one hand and a pitcher in the other and making the parents feel like it's her privilege.


And she finally did give up on the pickled herring.


She's pretty perfect. Happy birthday, Mom.




  1. Funny how that happens that "You look just like or are just like your mother" becomes a compliment. I wish more of the people where I live now got to know the wonders that are my mother and then I hope, I hope they would tell me the same thing.

  2. what a lovely tribute! Happy Birthday, DeoVolenteMater!


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