Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Morning glories, having been mowed all the way back, but bloom beautifully still.
The little black barbs in the center--these are the seeds to South Africa's ubiquitous "black jack."
These seeds are in my bed, in my clothes, and everywhere in my house!  They're everywhere!

It is my second and last Mother’s Day in South Africa. I didn’t post last year for Mother’s Day, and can’t remember why.  Mother’s Day always seems to sneak up on me--something happens with being too busy in April, with Easter and all.  And then, as a Louisvillian, the beginning of May signifies the coming of the Kentucky Derby for me, not Mother’s Day.

So, for this holiday especially, I run late with cards and greetings. And this one is no exception. So, if you’re a mother in my life, a card is on the way, but it will reach you after the fact. However, I’m thinking of you today, on Mother’s Day, so Happy Mother’s Day!

I’m posting photos of plants still surviving in my garden. These plants have endured a brutally hot, South African summer sun, the constant-throughout-the-whole-season-attack by hungry goats, a horrible infestation of weeds, a full, down-to-the-ground mowing, and a light frost. They have been growing for seven months and keep cycling through blooming, fruiting, and destruction —yet they endure. They are survivors and they are resilient, like mothers.

My green beans are blooming again!

I am a mother of sons, but I never think about my sons on Mother’s Day. I think instead about my mother, my grandmother, and my aunt--the “major” mothers of my life. I also think of the grandmothers I have lost and how important they were to me—and still are to me. And I think of others who are favorite mothers: this year a favorite niece is a new mother and I can’t wait to come home and see my grandniece! Two of my best friends are mothers, and one of my spiritual guides is a powerful woman who has raised a wonderful family.

I am blessed with many mothers in my life!

I woke this morning, early this Mother’s Day, to a text message from a fellow Peace Corps volunteer who is also a mother. Like me, she longs for home and family, and like me, has longed for them since she arrived in South Africa two years ago. I enjoyed very much this early morning Mother’s Day greeting, and we commented about how the closer the time comes to being reunited with our families, the longer the time seems to tick on “this side.” We both ache for home and on Mother’s Day, we are missing our families and our sons.

This is my amaranth... You can see the stalks lying on the ground--they were mowed down to the ground.
However, the amaranth refuses to give up and is generating new growth--and new growth with seeds!

There is a six hour time difference, so my early morning calls to express Mother’s Day greetings might come at 3:00 am.  This, as you can imagine, might not be so happily received, even by the kindest and most compassionate of moms, so I decided to treat myself  to a “Happy Mother’s Day” walk instead of waking all of the women in my family in the middle of the night.  Mother’s Day is celebrated in South Africa too, so on my early morning walk, a wonderful young man greeted me, “ Good morning Madam, and Happy Mother’s Day.” Since he seemed the same age as my sons, I smiled especially big at hearing it.

As I walked, I thought about the roles of motherhood and the women who have served as mothers in my life. In thinking about these women and the definition of “mother,” I started wondering about what makes a mother what a mother is: What defines motherhood?

Must one give birth to a child to be a mother? What about adoptive moms? What about widowed dads? What about grandparents who “take on” the responsibility of raising their grandkids? What about older siblings taking on the maternal role of an absent parent or parents?

My tomatoes, also mown all the way back, are resprouting and reblooming! 
It was a cold, rainy morning, so the blooms are closed up tight--but they're there!

And what about those dads, anyway? Can a dad be a mom? Of course a dad can be a mom: dads cook, clean, bathe, protect, and care for their children. Dads are certainly moms—or can be.

What about children? Can a child be a mom? Ever watched a little girl—or boy—care for a baby doll? A beloved stuffed-animal? Or a puppy?

What about women who haven’t birthed children? I have dear, childless friends who watch over me, are protective, nurturing, loving, kind, and maternal—they care for me. Same goes for childless male friends.

When I think about my mom and the other mothers in my life, these are the qualities I see: strength, perseverance, creativity, kindness, compassion, a giving nature, patience, quick-thinking, is fiercely-protective, smart, capable, loving, warm, faithful, loyal, and generous. However, in my musings, I found the consistent quality of “mothering” and the “ability to mother” is the demonstration of care. All mothers I know care and care deeply about another or others.

A watermelon on the vine that has been mowed, eaten, frozen, etc.

My faithful remaining one plant of Swiss chard. 
The goats and I fight over it.
And what about this notion of giving birth, after all? Must we give birth to a child? What about giving birth to ideas, art, music, sculpture, and literature. Can we care about our ideas? Our art? Our films? Our stories? What about being a mother to kindness? Or a mother to compassion? Or a mother to patience? What about giving birth to a garden or a flower arrangement? How about giving birth to a salad or decadent soup? What about giving birth to a political movement or a new ideology? What about giving birth to a new nation? What about giving birth to a new earth or a new world? What about giving birth to a new way of life?

We are all mothers who care—or could all be mothers who care! So, Happy Mother’s Day to all of us, Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!

And a very special Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom, my Grandma, and my Aunt Bea. Thank you for caring especially for me!


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