When I started thinking about writing a piece on “What Mama Did” several different things ran through my mind. I could write about how she read to me and taught me to read at a young age and developed a lifelong love within me for the written word that continues full force today. I could write about her resilience, about how she just kept moving forward in the wake of a divorce (when I was little) and after the sudden death of my stepfather. I could tell you about her practical approach to life and how she taught me to roll with the punches life throws my way. I could describe her quiet nature and how I wrongly for so many years mistook her quietness for having nothing much to say (I was dead wrong – ever heard the saying “Still waters run deep”? That’s my Mama. She may not say much but those gears are ever turning, believe me.) I could talk about her humble nature and her ability to be content with her lot in life, and how she learned to “make do” with what she had. I could write about how much she loves babies and they love her right back, but in the end I’m choosing to write about how my Mama showed me that you are never too old to do something new, that childlike wonder has no age limit, and that joy is where you find it. (It also has a little to do with babies).
My Mama was married for 32 years to my stepfather before his untimely death from a heart attack in 2003. For the entirety of their married life he called the shots in our house and she liked it that way. She molded her life around his, as she believed a wife is supposed to do. I am ashamed to admit that as a teenager I thought it was ridiculous thought and in my teenage me-ness, I thought my mother should get all up in his face and demand her own way sometimes. Of course now I see that her attitude was just another indicator of her servant-heart, and she served not only my stepfather but me and the rest of her family. Throughout their marriage they traveled a little, always within the US, and mostly to the beach, a place they both loved.
In 2004 my husband and I completed the paperwork to adopt a little girl from China and began the process of waiting for our match. For months we discussed (OK, argued about) whether or not we should take our two other daughters, ages 16 and almost 4. I said yes, and he said no, partly due to the expense and partly due to being in a foreign country with unfamiliar food, a language we couldn’t speak, and the need to give our full attention to the new member of our family. One day I suggested that maybe we could bring my mother along to help out. His response? The girls could come if my mother came AND she’d have to pay her own way because we couldn’t afford to do so. So I asked her, fully expecting her to demur politely, maybe citing the cost and being away from the comforts of home, etc.
She was thrilled! She was like a little kid on an adventure! Together we went to get our passports and get fingerprinted and every event was so exciting for her! And on February 23, 2005, my mother boarded an airplane for the very first time, and her first flight took her to Hong Kong. The unfamiliar food didn’t throw her at all – if nothing else looked good to her she’d just have rice. She never complained, even when I got grumpy, which I freely admit I did. And as joyous as the trip would have been anyway, my joy was multiplied to be able to see my mother drink it all in. She loved our new daughter, and in fact, loved ALL the babies in our travel group and as is usually the case with my Mama and babies, the feeling was mutual. When we arrived back in our hometown after an 18 hour flight, jetlagged and exhausted, my Mama turned to me and said, “Where are we going next? I’ve already got my passport now – let’s use it!”
Since then Mama and I have traveled a good bit together, never as far as China, but twice to Disney World, where she again demonstrated that childlike wonder is not just reserved for children. She has many, many mementos from our adventures together that serve as tangible reminders that there is fun out there to be had and you are never, NEVER too old to be a kid at heart.
(I confess – I started writing this piece before this morning because I saw Lisa Jo’s comment that we would get a chance to post about our own Mamas today, so I probably took more than 5 minutes and I did a little bit of editing, but it’s mostly raw.)