Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Mother's Day Tribute to Wanda

My mother, Wanda McClanahan, deserves all the best things this Mother's Day. I've been wracking my brain trying to think of what to give her. David, the husband, always useful, suggested that what she would like most would be a poem or something written by me. I'm not much in a poem writing mood, mom, so I'm writing you a blog post.

My mom and I have not always had the best relationship. Once I hit puberty, she probably wanted to send me far, far away. And as I recall, I would have happily gone far, far away. I have to confess, I wasn't much better as a daughter when I hit adulthood. I had a lot of issues, none of which are her fault. But I spent a good many years thinking she was at fault. I'm sorry. That was unfair.

However much I complained, fought, blamed, my mom never gave up on me. She always supported me in every way, never told me to go to hell (which would have been perfectly understandable and deserved if she had), and always told me how proud she was of me.

Here are some of my best memories of life with my mom. My earliest and favorite memories of my mom are of curling up next to her while she read to me. And she read to me a lot. I had this one book about a silly witch who had a haunted house and some people bought it and turned it into a tea room. I loved that book, along with the one about the muskrat children who didn't get along and Miss Twigglie's Tree (I think that was the title). These memories are cozy, warm, and loving. What a great thing to give me. Thank you mom.

My mom was an efficient production unit, sewing all our clothes, canning food she either grew or picked, and doing all kinds of community work. I remember really early on, when we lived in New York, she would go sew sheets or something for needy people. I got to tag along because I wasn't in school yet. Later on, I tagged along when she went to every farm within 50 miles and picked corn, beans, berries, and all kinds of yummy food to be canned at home. I'm sure I complained a lot about that, but looking back, it is a good memory. I especially liked picking wild berries with my mom. She never let a berry bush go by unpicked. We picked gooseberries, chokecherries, raspberries, everything. She transformed these into delicious jellies we ate all year long. I'm sure I complained about all the icky home canned vegetables, but now I wish I had paid more attention and learned how to do it myself.

I have fond memories of coming home after school in August and September to the smell of pickling spices. It's a very vivid sensory memory.

Because we lived in the country, Mom had to drive me into town for every thing I did. Swimming lessons, band practices, girl scouts, everything. This she did willingly. I know I was glad for the day I got my driver's license, and I'm sure she had mixed feelings of relief and terror at the thought of me driving myself along those windy roads into town.

My mother tried to provide the stability and safety to her children that was lacking in her own childhood, and I never understood this until much later in my life. She doesn't talk much about the hardships she faced growing up, but I admire her tenacity and the choices she made to make a good life for her own family.

We did have a good life. In those days, moms told their kids after breakfast to go outside and play. When your playground is a national park, that's the best. We spent all our summers playing outside, hiking, pondering, mulling, and otherwise occupying ourselves. It was the best.

When it was time for me to go off to college, I wanted to go out of state, and to a private school, no less. At first my parents weren't sure that scheme was feasible, but Mom eventually realized it was what I needed, and she supported me in that choice. I'm sure it was a hardship financially. But they did it. When I wanted to transfer after the first year, my mom's main concern was that I not drop out. She really wanted me to graduate from college, because she did not. Thank you mom.

I am not an easy daughter, and I wish my mom had had a daughter who was kind, respectful, easier to raise, and appreciated her more. All in all, though, I feel that my mom gave me a great start in life, and I think I'm pretty okay. After 48 years, I find myself appreciating my mom more and more all the time. And I just wanted to let you know. There have been times when I've been downright horrible to you, mom, and you did not deserve that. I am sorry for those times. I hope the good things have overshadowed those times. These memories are precious to me and I hope to you as well.

I love you. Happy Mother's Day.