This is how I’ve loved my mother and my grandmother and basically every other woman in my life for as long as I can remember.
I go with them.
See, the women in my life have stuff to do. They always have. They have gardens to tend and laundry to hang on the line. They have supper to cook. They have babies to bathe. They have meetings to run. They have loans to make. They have groceries to buy. They have people in the hospital and nursing home to visit.
And as a kid, and an adult, I’ve always had two choices- go entertain myself, or come along. No one was going to beg me to do one or the other, but if I wanted to spend time with them, I’d be doing it mostly on the move.
Now to be fair, I also enjoyed plenty of time when my momma and her momma played with me. And I do mean played WITH me. MaMa Cain made paper dolls, and read books and told stories. Mom sang songs and drew pictures and danced. But life was NOT all about me.
And while all of that was very fun, I found that it was just as fun to be a pleasant companion to them! It’s quite possible I wasn’t actually as pleasant as I thought I was. I may have been as annoying as all get out. It’s possible I made everything take twice as long as it should’ve taken.
But if that’s true, neither of them ever let on.
I’d sing or tell stories or point out what I thought was interesting wherever we happened to be. I physically helped very little. They folded two thirds of the laundry being folded. They picked three fourths of whatever vegetable was being picked. I mostly just provided the entertainment, the encouragement, and the comic relief.
After a long, stressful day at the bank, momma would pick me up from choir practice, and we’d head to the grocery to get both ours and MaMa’s groceries. Walking in, you could feel how hard it was for her drag herself through this next piece of the long day. So I’d start to dance or sing along to whatever muzak happened to be playing, and pretty soon she’d be smiling. “Jenny Ann, you beat all I’ve ever seen.”
It was purely for her benefit. At first, I’d straighten up if someone else came up the same aisle we were on and start back up when we were “alone”. But after mom was perked up a bit, I’d just keep it going even when strangers came by because I could tell, she was not embarrassed. She was proud. Sometimes the strangers would laugh too, and if they didn’t notice or gave me a disapproving look, that made the whole game even more fun.
You see my mom showed up for me, and I tried to make it a point to show up for her. She didn’t just show up for games, recitals, and all that jazz we expect parents to show up for, and I didn’t just show up for school and church and holidays that we all expect kids to show up for.
We showed up for each other in the daily grind of things- the things for which you don’t get any brownie points and which I’m convinced ultimately mean the most.
It’s admittedly a little harder to do this in adulthood. When we lived together, it was easier. When grandma was our neighbor in my childhood, it was easier. When we all were neighbors when MY daughters were very little, it was easier.
But this year, I’m going try to figure out how to overcome the obstacles. I’m going to be more intentional about being alongside my momma as she goes through daily life and make it a point to tell her more about mine. I’m going to let her know she’s not alone (for better or worse) just like I did when I was a little girl and hopefully lighten the load for us both in the process.
Time may eventually bring a little balance or even tip the scales the other way on who is doing the physical work of whatever is being done. Luckily, we have my daughters now to provide some of the entertainment and a fraction of the labor. But regardless of who does what, I hope to be doing whatever is being done WITH my mother and my daughters for many years to come.
I also hope that on Mother’s Day and every day we can simply recall how we all showed up for one another and used whatever tools we had to make life a little better for each other rather than glorifying some “Martyr Mother” nonsense to which our culture seems so inclined.