Thursday, October 24, 2013

Reflections on My Mother's Hundredth Birthday

My mother would be 100 years old today. I had her for 91 of those years—although Alzheimer’s claimed the last ten—leaving her with only occasional whispers of herself, and leaving the rest of us very lonely.

I came late in my mother’s life; seven years after I was born, my father died and she was left to cope with raising my sassy, stubborn self on her own. By then my brother was married and my sister was bound for college. My mother and I, different as daylight and dark, embraced the few interests we shared (Bonanza, My Three Sons, Lawrence Welk, popcorn, and Arby’s roast beef sandwiches) and rolled our respective eyes over the rest. During my adolescent years, she deemed Sonny and Cher “tacky,” ripped my borrowed copy of The Godfather in half, and dismissed my plaintive claims that “everybody else is!” with “Well, you’re not!” In retrospect (retrospect being defined as me now being a mother myself), she was right, of course. Sonny and Cher were tacky; at 13, I was far too young to be reading something as sordid as The Godfather; and whoever “everybody else” was, their parents probably weren’t buying the story, either.

My mother was a pretty tough cookie as a mom, but a whole other side of her came out when she got around her seven sisters, and I’ve often wished I’d known my mother as a teenager. Though feminine as they came, she always considered herself a tomboy and found the idea that a man could be better than a woman both ridiculous and repugnant. She played ball with a passion, was a brilliant businesswoman, and could fix anything. I’m quite certain, if she’d been born a few years earlier, she’d have been a suffragette.

Despite her feminist streak, she adored her brother, my daddy,  her son, and her grandsons, and even during her years as a successful entrepreneur, her favorite place was always at home—usually in the kitchen—though she sewed as well as she cooked and gave generously of both talents. Every holiday brought beautifully made garments and mouthwatering meals. Our Halloween costumes were legendary; her sour cream cake was famous in four states. Even now, it’s really not Easter without Mother’s towering coconut cake which, no matter how hard I try, I can’t duplicate. Even now, I mourn the absence of those homemade pajamas we unwrapped every Christmas Eve.

But the true legacy my mother left me—the thing I cling to when I miss her presence like a piece of my own flesh—is her fearlessness. A godly woman with a heart for children, who loved to laugh, had no tolerance whatsoever for “sorriness,” and who firmly believed that idleness was the devil’s workshop, my mother was afraid of nothing. The words “I can’t do that” simply were not in her vocabulary. Whether it was a real estate or business issue, a snake in the back yard, me on the verge of flunking Algebra II or, surely, the occasional realization that she was a woman on her own trying to do it all, she tackled it head on. She didn’t whine, she didn’t fret, she didn’t procrastinate; she just got the job done, whatever it was.

Let me be the first to say that, in that regard, I am most assuredly not my mother’s daughter. I’m afraid of a lot of things, and I have taken the art of procrastination to a whole new level. But even while I will never attain my mother’s level of fearlessness, I trained with the master and her bravado, if not her actual boldness, rubbed off on me. I do a pretty good job of faking my way through intimidating situations and I keep hoping that, one of these days, the Spirit of Lila will come roaring through.

Until then, I’m just grateful that God saw fit to give me a mother who loved me enough to teach me right from wrong, to treat myself and others with respect, to love the Lord and honor His commandments, and to give me the recipe for her sour cream cake. A girl can’t go too far wrong with an upbringing like that; thank you, Mama—and happy 100th birthday.


lisavihos said...

What a beautiful tribute to a clearly remarkable woman. She made a wonderful daughter, to boot.

Jo Balistreri said...

Dear Jayne,
This is one of the most beautiful tributes I've read.
Your mother was truly a life model for you in every regard.
I admire her so much--raising children alone, doing and not whining, just getting the job done. She had a sense of humor and a big love of the Lord. Enjoyed reading this. Jo

Debbie Capps said...

I enjoyed the time we went up to see Billy Graham, it still is engraved in my mind. Happy Birthday to your special mom. So wonderful to have all those special memories. So happy to have met her and her special daughter

Jayne Jaudon Ferrer said...

Thank you all for your sweet comments. I can't put a meal on the table as fast as she could, don't have her green thumb, and never learned to crochet or play the fiddle (despite her many attempts to teach me!), but maybe I'll grow into all that by the time I'M a hundred!

abbiescorner said...

It's funny I should read about your mother today. I blogged about my mother yesterday at I'm glad you have wonderful memories of your mother, and I hope they will continue to live on in your heart for many years to come.

Glenda Beall said...

Jayne, I am late reading this wonderful tribute to your mom, but I am so glad I did read it. How touching and so very loving. We appreciate our mothers so much more as we get older, I think.
I'm glad you had her and can appreciate her.I was blessed with a wonderful mother who was also my friend even during my teenage years. I think of her every single day.