We only have one mother in our lifetime. This unique person is the greatest influence on our lives from the moment we take our first breath, perhaps even before, while we are still in the womb. She protects us when we are small, disciplines us when we need it, and is there for us through every single rite of passage. Inevitably, one day in our lives we lose her. Perhaps that is the saddest part of growing older, the losses we sustain along the way. And she is irreplaceable; we can make new friends, even marry another spouse, but we can never replace a mother.
She stays with us throughout our lives, even when we are mothers, or even grandmothers, ourselves. How do we remember her? Perhaps we give her name to a grandchild. Perhaps we make dishes that we loved as children, and for which she once gave us the recipe. Perhaps we wear a piece of jewelry that came to us after her death, and while it may not be valuable, it gives off wonderful vibrations simply because she used to wear it.
My mother probably had only eight years of education. But she was wise, from the lessons of life.
I have some earrings that were my mother's. They're only made of colored glass, but whenever I wear them, I find myself smiling. She had so little in her lifetime. Her old-fashioned kitchen sported none of the appliances we take for granted today. No refrigerator, but an old ice-chest. A man in a horse and cart used to deliver the ice twice a week. No washing machine, but a big copper and a mangle and scrubbing board. Monday was always washing-day, and I can still smell the wonderful fragrance of clean sheets billowing on the line in the sun and wind. The clothes lines were held up by a wooden prop. The big event in our lives was when we got a telephone, just in time for my teenage years, but I was strictly limited to how often I could use it, and for how long I could talk. There was no television, of course, but we had a wireless and the whole family would gather around it each night for our favorite serial, "Dad and Dave." Then late at night there was that scary program "The Witches' Hour."
There was not a lot of entertainment when I was a child, but the big treat was when my mother would take me to the local town hall, for Community Singing. All the words of the songs were up on a screen, and everyone would sing along. I felt so close to my mother then, and thought she was the most wonderful woman in the world.
Born at a time when schooling for girls was not considered a priority, she probably had only eight years of education. But she was wise, from the lessons of life. Mother of five, with little in the way of worldly possessions, she nevertheless created a haven for us, where we all felt safe. She taught us honesty and decency, morality and ambition. She never laughed at our dreams, but tried to help us make them come true.
In some way, I think of my mother almost every day. I teach my grandchildren the songs she taught me, and the nursery rhymes. In the food I cook from her recipes, I can still taste the flavor of love. I find myself using expressions that were hers. Now I see her image reflected back when I look in the mirror.
Life moves on. Everything changes. We travel around the world, achieve things that she never dreamt of. Yet what always remains constant is a mother's love.
This article is from "The Mother in Our Lives," (Targum/Feldheim) a new anthology of Jewish women's writing edited by Sarah Shapiro