Monday, May 14, 2007

For My Mother

Yesterday was Mother's Day.

I could tell you lots of reasons about why I've grown to love and appreciate my mother, not least because my appreciation for what she did for us kids has grown leaps and bounds since having my own. I haven't always been close to my mom, so being close and feeling close to her now brings me sheer joy; it is a gift that I treasure. But, that being said, I was reminded just yesterday of one of the things I most love about my mom. She just came home from a cruise, and my sisters and I all gathered at her house to get together before the oldest of us heads back to Boston. My mom was so thrilled to find us all at her house upon arriving home from the airport with my youngest sister. We ate pizza out on her deck, and I watched my little niece (in the picture below) do fingerplays with my mom.

It is always a sweet thing for me to listen to the way that my mother can recite many lines from memory of picture book upon picture book that she read over and over to us girls. She has fingerplays memorized that she did with all of us. It was a beautiful thing to see Daffodil stand right in front of my mom, and watch as my mother did these fingerplays with her, coaching Daffodil's hands to mimick her own -- helping her to "put her piggies in her trough," and line up her "soldiers standing in a row." That one was particularly tender to me as Daffodil put her little hands out in front of her, right up to my mom's hands, like they were mirroring each other through a pane of glass. (I wish I had a picture of this moment, and not just video footage, because that is what I would post here. But, as I do not, I posted a picture of my mom with all of my sisters and I above - so at least you can see her.) All of my sisters and I were watching, and when my mom would finish doing one of them with Daffodil, one of us would mention one that we remembered, and off she'd go, reciting the lines from years of use.

It is interesting to me now, years later, that the thing that I most remember and cherish about time spent with my mom as a little girl was all the time that she spent reading with me. I credit her for my love of words, of language, of stories. It didn't matter if we chose the exact same book over and over and over again, she'd read it with the same enthusiasm. I believe she loved the stories, too. It kind of reminds me of something I studied in one of my last English classes at BYU. We read Graham Swift's Waterland, and the thing that fascinated me most about this novel was the discussion of individual vs. collective history and the value of stories. To me, the novel asked the reader repeatedly to contemplate the value of stories and why we tell them. My favorite symbolism from the book was all the water -- the rivers, the sea.

"The Ouse flows on, unconcerned with ambition, whether local or national. It flows now in more than one channel, its waters diverging, its strength divided, silt-prone, flood-prone. Yet it flows - oozes - on, as every river must, to the sea. And, as we all know, the sun and the wind suck up the water from the sea and disperse it on the land, perpetually refeeding the rivers. So that while the Ouse flows to the sea, it flows, in reality, like all rivers, only back to itself, to its own source; and that impression that a river moves only one way is an illusion. And it is also an illusion that what you throw (or push) into a river will be carried away, swallowed for ever, and never return. Because it will return. And that remark first put about, two and a half thousand years ago, by Heraclitus of Ephesus, that we cannot step twice into the same river, is not to be trusted. Because we are always stepping into the same river." (Waterland, p. 145-146)

Robert Frost said in his poem "I Could Give All to Time": "I could give all to Time except--except / What I myself have held. But why declare / The things forbidden that while the Customs slept / I have crossed to Safety with? For I am There, / And what I would not part with I have kept" (lines 11-15).

To me, these words encapsulate Swift's idea of Time and History. He contrasts time vs. history. The hours and days pass -- that is Time. But History is different. Swift, like Frost, refuses to compromise the idea that we lose the stories, the actual experiences that have happened to us. While the minutes vanish, the defining moments don't.

(Consider this quote from Elder Maxwell: "There are certain mortal moments and minutes that matter -- certain hinge points in the history of each human. Some seconds are so decisive they shrink the soul, while other seconds are spent so as to stretch the soul.")

But, as I was saying, the furtherance of History hinges on the stories being retold, to make purpose and sense of life. This is what I love about stories: the connectedness that comes through them. It's interesting to me now that what I most love and remember about all the time spent with my mom was this love of stories that she instilled in me. Ironically, years later, I consider myself one who is obsessed with time and its cyclical nature.

I find myself thinking about the fact that although I never met my great-grandmas in the flesh, I know something of their life. In some small way, I am living it. I may not know what it is like to live on a farm or work the land in that sense, but I know a small something of raising children, making good food, rocking babies and singing lullabies and striving to strengthen my family. I feel uniquely connected to these women that have gone before, these mothers that have shaped my motherhood. This role tangibly links us together in my own heart.

I am so very grateful for my own mother. It is because of her that I already read to my infant sons, because of her that I will teach them the fingerplays, play folk songs on the guitar and sing with them, take them to swimming lessons and go and get ice cream after a trip to the doctor's office. I see reflections of her in my own actions every day. I love her - and so appreciate what she instilled in each of us. And I am moved as I see that linking us as women back through the generations of time, weaving us together as mother hearts.

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