Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What My Mother Taught Me

I have very few memories of my mother, memories that I know are for real rather than someone else's story. I must have been six when this happened:

I grew up out in the country, in an area on the edge of Appalachia in which many people lived in extreme poverty. Although my own family owned a thriving business, I was aware of the conditions around me to the extent that a first-grader could have been, because I rode a bus every day and so saw the homes of many of my schoolmates.

This particular day was cold and dreary. I'm guessing it was November. Some of the local children came by, selling raffle tickets. Because they were on my bus route, I knew who they were, though they were all older than I and none of them were in my room at school. Their house was actually visible from ours in the winter, across a couple of corn fields, but they would have had to walk at least a mile down their road and up ours to reach our door. Not an unusual walk or bike ride in those days, although I was too young for it at the time.

My mom bought some tickets and turned back to her housework, and then she began to cry. "It's freezing out there," she said. "It's freezing, and those children are not wearing socks." She grabbed a box and began to stalk through our bedrooms and basement laundry in fury, grabbing socks and sweaters and whatever else looked useful. Then she got into her car and drove away, and came back and said nothing more.

I seldom think about my mother. When she died, which would have been just under a year later if my sense of time is at all accurate, there was little discussion and no encouragement whatever to hang on to memories. It was a different era and the adults in my family, I realize now, all went a little crazy. But I wondered, this past week-end, whether Josh might be alive if his grandmother had lived. Because maybe she was a person who knew how to see things and how to take care of them, and maybe she could have taught that to me if we had had more time.


  1. Oh Robin. That is such a story. The generations that your heart and soul bridge are, indeed, connected.

    Wrenching and breaking and weeping and loving my heart continues to grow because of people like you. And most importantly in this moment, because of you.

  2. so many "if only's"....and "what if's"...((Robin))

  3. I feel the "what ifs"...but I also want you to know that Josh isn't gone because you were somehow deficient as a mother. I don't know if that's what I'm hearing you say here, but if it is...just a loving reminder that you are good.

  4. that you can remember her, this story, and even reflect on it so beautifully... you see more than you did before... *sigh* and sometimes no one really sees the depths of what is happening but god...

  5. The fact that your mother's story was inside of you tells me that transfer of "seeing things and knowing how to take care of them" had been accomplished. Sometimes the best eyes, ears and helping hands cannot stop what is in the depressed person's heart to do. I know you know that but I'm reminding you anyway. It's sad that he did it in spite of having a family that loved him so deeply. It's so very, very heartwrenchingly sad and I'm so sad for you. Hugs and love to you all.

  6. This story took my breath away. (((Robin)))