But then it occurred to me, one can never say too much about mothers in general and I began thinking about them and what makes mothers so special.
The dictionary definition of mother is concise: “A woman in relation to her child or children.” But the denotation is lacking because mothers are so much more. Indeed, there may not be another word with deeper, more plentiful connotations in the English language than “mother.”
Agatha Christie makes no mystery of the bond between mother and child: “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dates all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.”
Far more eloquent people than I have written about mothers and why they’re so special, but three words immediately come to my mind: nurture, safety and love.
Nurture: By their very nature, mothers encourage their children (even after they develop into adults) more than anyone, fathers included. It’s a generalization and there are no doubt mothers who are not as good as others, but the vast majority of mothers support their children better than anyone. After all, mothers are the ones at the most risk while bringing new life into the world and this bond is something only mothers really know. (Albeit, fewer women die during childbirth than ever before, but it still happens, especially in less developed countries.)
Safety: Is there anyone else in your life whom you feel safer to say or do things before than your mother? In a fit of anger, you can say the most egregious things or you can tell her the most embarrassing things about yourself and her opinion of you will not change. You were in her womb for nine months, but that feeling of safety and comfort never really goes away.
Love: Her love is unquestionable and unwavering, regardless what you do or say. Sure, she can get angry, maybe lose her temper and even shout, but a mother’s love for her children is relentless.
Long ago, at the dinner table one Sunday, my mother had most, if not all, of her seven children around. She had a tough day cleaning up after us and making us dinner etc. In an exasperated tone, she complained: “Why do I work and work and nobody around here seems to appreciate it? How come the people at church and the CWL like me, everybody in the bowling league likes me, and all of your father’s friends at his office like me and treat me better than I get treated around here?”
Then her youngest, who was about seven or eight years old at the time, said: “They just don’t know you like we do.” She should have clipped him then and there, but instead smiled, bowed her head and listened to the good-hearted laughter at her expense. Mothers do things like that.
And while we’re on the topic, after years of watching how hard my mother worked, I’ve always found the term “working mother” superfluous and unfair if applied only to those who leave the home during the day.
There’s family lore about my dad phoning home from Manhattan some 60 years ago and talking to my oldest brother because mom was on her hands and knees in the middle of scrubbing the kitchen floor.
Dad had a glamorous job in many ways; travelling and meeting big stars, business leaders and politicians. On this particular phone call, he was telling his son about the previous night when he was at a black-tie Broadway event and how he even had a dance with the dazzling actress Elizabeth Taylor.
Looking up from her scrub brush and bucket, mom asked what was said. Her little boy repeated the story about the Broadway ball and Liz Taylor, adding: “And you’re just like Cinderella, Mommy!”
It’s not too difficult to imagine what that young mother felt at that very moment: anger, frustration, embarrassment, regret, jealousy, perhaps all of the above.
Though Cinderella was initially kept from the ball to scrub floors, she did eventually make it and find a happy ending.
Mothers are like that, too. They clean up after us, encourage us at every corner, love us with no strings attached and give us so much happiness in so many chapters of our lives. Sure, it’s easy to take them for granted, but they don’t even find fault with us for that.
That’s why we give thanks for them today — and every day. Happy Mother’s Day.
(Brehl is a writer in Port Credit, Ont., and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or @bbrehl on Twitter.)