They say that you ‘pay for your raising’. Mine was expensive on many levels. In reflecting on my mother and my ‘raising’, I am just now starting to realize what this little phrase means, and realize that I probably still have a few more installments left to pay–not just in money or time, but also in sleep, worry and hair pigmentation. I am reminded of the recent example of maternal instinct demonstrated by the knee-jerk reaction of the Baltimore mom who ran into a full-on riot to drag her kid out of danger. I also recognize that it is just as difficult a task to maintain the day-to-day vigilance needed to get kids through adolescence to adulthood.
As a kid, I was mischievous with a mind of my own and no sense of danger–a combination that most certainly carries a costly penalty today. But in a time and place where people knew each other and their families, and wisdom and empathy were more common than protocol and ‘zero tolerance’, most adolescent behavior could be treated as what it is. My mom was a teacher in a rural high school. It always seemed that every time I tried to get out of class for some lame reason she was there, standing in the hallway just waiting to ask, “What are you doing out of class?” She didn’t have to drag me out of a riot, but sure did have a look that could speak volumes. Having now been on the receiving end of discreet eye-rolls and smart-alack replies, I am now realizing that I had it pretty good and escaped adolescence relatively unscathed, despite some impulsive idiotic behavior. Like the time my friend and I took a teacher’s car keys and drove the car off school property. (Today that would have been grand theft auto on government property—and I might still be in jail if punishment was meted out by current protocol.) Now that I think about it, I can only imagine the sick feeling a mom would get having to answer a collect call from the State Highway Patrol regarding her child……or opening the front door to find FBI agents looking for her child. (There were innocent explanations in both instances, but the parental gut-punch had the same effect.)
As an adult, I realize that my mom has, in large part, made me who I am, and I understand her more with each passing day. She took us to Vacation Bible School, to piano lessons and swimming lessons. She gave us ‘the look’ when we needed it, more when that wasn’t enough, but she also gave us roots and gave us wings. My mom taught me a lot of things: buy good shoes and high thread count sheet, be sure to write thank-you notes, do things while you have the chance, and share your blessings with others. We lost her much too soon to cancer and she will, in my mind, be forever young. We miss you, Mom…thanks for your vigilance and endurance. We turned out OK.