As we prepare to celebrate Mothers’ Day I have seen a few discussions on whether or not it is properly titled as “Mother’s Day” or “Mothers’ Day”. As Mrs. Grott, one of my earliest English teachers always said ‘Scott! Please, you MUST pay BETTER attention to those apostrophes!’ So it is that I appreciate the difference between these two titles …. and for a myriad of reasons I much prefer the second.
A couple of days ago my wife and I made a trip to see my mom. She is on the cusp of turning 93 and living with my sister, my niece, and her family in rural Ohio.
Mom is the matriarch of our family. She just recently broke her hip and her Parkinson’s disease and age are making her recovery a bit of a challenge, but she is a strong, tough lady, so she is giving it her usual dose of 100% and doing so in her normally cheerful and positive manner.
Fifteen hours in a car was our total and our visit was all too brief, but visit we did and today and forever after, we are all the richer for it. And while we may have missed Mothers’ Day proper, yet any visit with my mom now qualifies as a real “Mother’s Day”.
During our drive home my wife and I had ample time to talk about many things, especially about family and the love and admiration we have for all things related to my mom, family, family history, and ancestry.
I recalled that as far back as I can remember my mom has always been our families’ glue. Not only keeping her immediate family together, but the extended family as well. Growing up I learned early on that no reason was ever too large nor ever too insignificant to be the spark to warrant the call for a family gathering. Every birthday, every holiday, and quite often just because it was ‘Saturday’ got my Mom on the phone, when the party line was available that is. She would begin rallying the family to come to our home for the day and, of course, a meal. Now, I never complained about this, since it usually resulted in some of my very favorite foods being prepared including my Bohemian favorites of knedliky and kolache, plus if I was exceptionally lucky my grandmother’s black cherry parfait pie. Often we had so many family members for these gatherings that we had to break up the ping-pong table into two extra dinner tables, resulting in fun, family, feasting, and more. Each and every one of those days is a treasure to me. If I close my eyes and sit quietly I can still hear the voices, most in English, some in Czech. I can smell the aroma of Uncle Jim’s cigar and the frequent booms of laughter.
The more I thought about it, I quickly realized that I actually was doubly blessed in this department! My mother-in-law, Dolores, was truly the equivalent of a second mother to me. She accepted me as a son and taught me so very much about her Italian heritage and the very special place ‘la famiglia’ holds in Italian heritage. Additionally, my grandmother-in-law, Helen, who was affectionately known as ‘Moose Heart” since she included so many at her dinner tables, blessed me with her love and acceptance. And let me tell you that since my wife’s family is 100% Italian as far back as I have traced, those dinner tables were something truly awe-inspiring. I remember well looking in the kitchen on one of my first dinner visits. I asked what was for dinner and was told ravioli, gnocchi, soup, salad, and more. I noticed a roast of beef on the counter and asked ‘what about the roast?’ I was told ‘that’s a side dish.’ I knew there and then I was getting into the RIGHT family!
All this was actually great training for me. In my youth it instilled a significant love of extended family at a very early age. According to my mom, no reason was too large or too small to include family. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and even ‘just because it is Saturday’ always resulted in huge, extended family gatherings at our home. A bit later, when I married, I was shown that the true definition of family is expansive and inclusive, and not at all exclusive. As a result, it was oh-so-easy to add our in-laws into our lives not as in-laws, but truly as new family members. Additionally I even more blessed with my wife who also sees extended family as an integral factor in our combined lives, and family gatherings would be continuing in our lives, evidenced by our new ‘record’ of 24 for Thanksgiving this past autumn.
Now my wife and I have been blessed to see our own family expand with children, new in-laws, and grandchildren. As a Mother, and while I know I may be just a bit prejudiced in my view since we have been married now for 37 years, my wife was an amazing Mother and role-model for our children. She is an awesome Mom who carried off the balance between motherhood, family responsibilities, raising children, her career as an interior designer, creating fundraising events for nonprofits, and even more with grace, happiness, aplomb, and with a deep love for all. (Disclaimer: She also happens to be my favorite proofreader and editor!)
Perhaps it is the most heartwarming to see that our children are now carrying on the same love of family that we, as a couple, have. Holidays and gatherings contain family. Vacations focus on when and how to get to the old family cabin ‘Up North’, where they are steeped in memories and surrounded by family. The kitchen activities feature old-time family favorites on the stove, barbeque, or in the oven. Parents, children, grandchildren, and grandparents all clamoring for the same goodies that enthralled our parents, grandparents, and many more before them.
It wasn’t long before the genealogist in me I started thinking backwards in time. I was envisioning our family tree and recalled that for several generations it was the strong women in the family who kept my family going. My grandmother, Mae, was thrust into single parenthood during The Great Depression, due to the death of her husband. Her Mom, Anna, cast in the same role as a single Mom when her husband mysteriously disappeared from the family in 1911. I recalled that my dad’s grandmother, Louisa, was also left as a single Mom when her husband died at 34.
I realized that it was no wonder we always spent Mothers’ Day having a very special dinner that focused as much on my grandmothers as my mom. In my younger days, it was a rare occasion that found my family in a restaurant of any kind, except that is, on Mother’s Day. Then it was off to ‘The Wagon Wheel’, a place that feed each table ‘family style’ and our table always included our family, and my grandmothers.
My wife made an excellent point to me that we were blessed to have many friends and acquaintances who were incredible role-models as Mothers. Many were single Mom’s, working, raising a family, and struggling in the face of huge odds, but always with their focus on doing their very best.
And so it goes … more women keeping a family going. No wonder family stayed so important in our lives … impressive Mothers, Mothers-in-Laws, Grandmothers, Aunts, and Great Aunts abounding and setting examples for us to admire, learn from, and attempt to emulate.
It wasn’t long and I realized how much I owe to a whole lot of the Mothers of our family tree!
So for a whole lot of reasons, this Mothers’ Day is going to hold some very special feelings for the Mother of my children, my mother, my mother-in-law, my grandmothers, and all the greats that came before!
From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you, thank you, thank you!
And I’ll even thank Mrs. Grott, who taught me to put the apostrophe in the proper place for ALL Mothers!
I wish each and all of you a wonderful Mothers’ Day!
Onward To Our Past®