It occurred to me this Mother’s Day that my ancestor mothers names all began with the letter “M”. Aside from the initial, these women shared few common traits, but each was a special mother in her own way.
Mattie, my maternal grandmother’s life was a testament to survival.
Her mother died when she was a teenager ending her potential for a better life. Her father remarried and abandoned her to the care of a stepmother who sent her to the fields to chop cotton.
Mattie married caring for her husband and ten children in appalling circumstances. Her rural shotgun shack had neither electricity nor indoor plumbing. She cooked on a wood burning stove fueled by wood she chopped. Clothes laundered outdoors in a cast iron pot with water she hauled from a well. Feeding chickens, milking cows, slopping pigs and sewing dresses for her daughters from feed sacks completed her workday.
Mattie was a reflection of this environment. As a child and the oldest of her twenty-one grandchildren, I never felt loved by her. I was wrong. As an adult, I realized the special teacakes she baked for me were the only way she knew how to tell me she loved me.
Marie, Mattie’s eldest daughter, was my mother.
As a child, coddled and catered, I was the beneficiary of my mother’s harsh beginning in life. Mother chafed at male domination and inequality in the workplace. She had no hesitation about confrontation if she believed she was right. The problem with that was she had full confidence in her beliefs, even if unsupported. If alive today, she’d most likely be front and center wearing a pink pussy hat.
Mary Ella, my paternal grandmother, grew up in a male-dominated household.
Sent to live with an uncle when her mother died, she grew up without a maternal role model. She married my grandfather who had a carefree attitude about providing for his family. Despite living in poverty, she was never bitter about their circumstances. She was a joyful soul. They loved each other and their home reflected that love.
She understood the difference between about quality and quantity. This was a good trait to have, as quantity would never grace her life. She had the ability to make the ordinary seem special. Her cherished “made in Japan” sugar bowl and creamer sit on my desk today. Ancient and fragile, they hold pens, and pencils and are a reminder that she made me feel special.
On this Mother’s Day, I am reminded of the values that my “M” connection moms gave me.
They are hard acts to follow. I am proud of them and hope they would be proud of me too.