If my mom were still alive, she would be the one I'd be taking to an after-church brunch today. She would be wearing that sandy-colored, linen jacket she thought camouflaged her rounded, osteoporotic back. A pastel scarf would be at her neck and her gray-white hair would be freshly styled. She would have carefully polished her aluminum cane with a lace-edged cotton handkerchief. When you hugged her, there would be the hint of lavender sachet.
Her excitement about the day would be sweet and real. On Mother's Day, she was practically assured a call from each of her children and grandchildren. One of them would have arranged a corsage, and she would want her picture taken wearing it, saying she hoped to include that photo in the thank-you cards she would assuredly send. Those would be well-worded thank-you notes written in delicate, flowing script, acknowledging the gift and the giver as well as gratitude for life in general.
In the wide, side pockets of my mother's jacket, there would be a few tissues, her offering envelope, some mints and probably an article from a magazine that she intended to talk with me about while we ate. If the subject was politics, she would have underlined the opposing views in different-colored inks to help organize the discussion she wanted us to have.
In lieu of a purse, she would have an embroidered bag that held the flattened, well-worn pillows she needed in order to sit comfortably.
Mother would not want to linger over brunch, desiring to get back to her little assisted-living apartment for the telephone calls. She would say, several times during the meal, that she was hopeful we could play a game of Scrabble, and she'd remind me she'd already laid out the board and had "some of those lemon cookies you always like."
This is the mom who grew up as the daughter of a North Dakota prairie-preacher and lost her own mother in the 1917 flu epidemic when she was barely 3 years old. This same mom was a staff sergeant in the Women's Marine Corps during World War II and a school teacher in the years preceding. She graduated from Mayville State Teacher's College at a time when most women did not do that — go to college, let alone graduate — and she had her first child when she was in her early-30s "… and then had two more.
Surprising what you remember about your mother on a day dedicated to doing just that. The mom I remember would tie a knotted arrangement of nylon stockings around her morning newspaper once she had read it and lower it over her balcony railing to share it with the person in the apartment below. As we were growing up, this same mother put a shower cap over the smoke alarm when she baked — so it wouldn't "act up." She preferred her children not act up either, but she never admonished them with a scolding, but rather by quietly reciting the Golden Rule.
Remember that rule. And remember to tell your stories today: your own mother's stories and family stories, as well.
Make them real, and sweet.
Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-776-7371, ext. 210.