Many Mothers

“Hey, I thought about you yesterday. You like recipes don’t you?”

“I do!”

“Well, I’ve got one for you. Noni Puffs. (Like Sfinge.) Here, write it down. You got a pencil?”

I feel myself grinning as I listen to this voice from my past. Aunt Dee. My mother’s brother’s wife, one of the many women who mothered me as a child.

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“I believe if one is lucky in life, one has many mothers.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I’ve been thinking a lot about mothers recently. This is a layered and complex topic for me, one I don’t share very often because it’s much easier to tickle your taste buds with myriad ways to mash a potato than it is to talk about my mother.

My mother turned ninety in March. I decided my Luscious Legacy Project was the perfect container in which to craft a book of stories and photographs to present to her as a birthday gift. I completed one for my dad when he turned ninety and even though he wasn’t in the cognitive space to appreciate it, his caretakers enjoyed seeing a younger, livelier version of Sam. Creating that book was like balm to a withering soul. The memories it evoked brought so much laughter to a time in my life that was steeped in grief. Stories do that.

Creating a book for my mother was more challenging. I had fewer stories and memories to draw from. So, I enlisted the help of friends and neighbors and family members who I hadn’t seen or spoken with in years. (More like decades.) That’s how I reconnected with Aunt Dee. I have to tell you, at first I was hesitant to make those calls even though it’s one of the invitations in this Luscious Legacy Project endeavor: Make That Call.

I had this idea in my head that people would wonder, why now? Why after all these years? Each time I picked up the phone I called forth a measure of courage I didn’t know I had. I couldn’t have been more mistaken in my reticence. Every person I connected with had a story to share. Some, several stories. One incidence in particular just made me grin. Unbeknownst to me I had been calling and leaving messages at an incorrect number. I believe I left about two, maybe three messages at this number. One afternoon I received the sweetest phone call from a gentleman who said, “Your project sounds really special and I know your mother is going to love her book, but I think you have the wrong number.” (Only in Buffalo would someone be kind enough call you and let you know you had dialed the wrong number.)

Back to Aunt Dee. Our conversations continue. It was almost as though once we opened the memory portal, we didn’t want to stop reminiscing. Mostly we share the very same stories. I never tire of hearing them.

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Do you have some stories you’d like to assemble in a tangible form? The Luscious Legacy Project may be just the nudge you need. And so much more. Registration is open. You can learn more about this project right here.

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8 Responses to Many Mothers

  1. Melissa Fu May 8, 2016 at 3:23 am #

    Ah – lovely! A wonderful post about many mothers and ways to honour them and courage. Thank you Sue Ann!

    • Sue Ann Gleason May 8, 2016 at 7:05 am #

      I love to see your smiling face here, Melissa. And to witness the beautiful way you mother your children. xxoo

  2. rebecca@altaredspaces May 8, 2016 at 5:49 am #

    Ahhhhh. I have many mothers too.

    “The memories it evoked brought so much laughter to a time in my life that was steeped in grief. Stories do that.” Stories open me where I am closed. They give me hope where I feel distraught. Stories help me to see things differently, if only for a moment, and that is all it takes to take me in a new direction.

    My mother has been gone 16 years now. But my relationship with her continues because of stories. Some of the stories are my own…but I am hearing them differently in my head now that I am older. Where once I thought she was weak, now I think she was human. And not only human, but vitally alive as a human with all those complications.

    I realize I’ve listened to “other people’s stories” about my mother and they kept me from hearing my own story truly. As the other voices fall away, I’m able to have a renewed relationship with my mother. I feel it keenly. Often more keenly now than when she first died.

    Stories wake us up and shape us, I believe. I suppose I am to an age where I am asking different questions about my mother and that is why I find new stories. Stories that inspire great love in my heart for her courage. I see her differently because I am different.I have the stories to prove that. Thanks for reminding me on this Mother’s Day.

    <3

    • Sue Ann Gleason May 8, 2016 at 7:03 am #

      Thank you so much for your deep and thoughtful response, Rebecca. This especially: “Where once I thought she was weak, now I think she was human.” And yes to stories waking and shaking us. I love how the stories keep me company on days I miss my dad. I also love how ‘borrowed’ stories help me appreciate the mother I did not have an opportunity to witness fully in later years when I saw her only through the lens of my youth. xxoo

  3. Angela May 11, 2016 at 7:27 am #

    Dear Sue Ann,

    I know that challenge of talking about my mother; unfortunately, in my case, most of the stories aren’t very good ones.

    Like you, the memories of my father are different, and usually rather funny!

    On the first anniversary of my fathers passing my sister and our children sat around the record player listening to all Dad’s favourite albums. My dad used to “drunk dial” us all over the world when he was listening to music and drinking whatever it was that he had poured himself that night. He just wanted us to listen to his music and reminisce . So we decided to “drunk dial” (even though were certainly weren’t drunk!) all of his friends and ask them for their favourite story of my dad. We were surprised that so many people were happy to oblige, we even caught one of his friends in the pub where dad used to go, surrounded by all his friends. They discussed it and called us back with a story:

    My dad purchased a car with a full sun roof, one that pulls back all the way. While my dad was having a pint in the pub, his friends took his keys, opened the sunroof and stuffed an old mattress and some large pieces of wood into his car, sticking out as if the items where thrown into a skip. My dad came out and didn’t know if he should be mad or just laugh at the elaborate joke. Of course it was a joke that went on to bring laughter for many years and his car was affectionally known as “the skip”.

    It was a lovely day of remembrance, not only did we enjoy hearing the stories, and telling our own, but it was so comforting to know that we had inspired others to think about my dad on that day too… and laugh, because he always made us laugh.

    <3

    • Sue Ann Gleason May 11, 2016 at 8:23 am #

      Oh Angela, I loved this story. I have so many similar stories about my dad who was also quite a character. That’s what I love most, that these stories endure … “to bring laughter for many years.” Yes, that. Thank you for reading this post and responding with a story. What a gift. xxoo

  4. april May 11, 2016 at 11:38 pm #

    i’ve found that it is rarely too late to make that call. if you reach out, you will usually be rewarded with a warm response of appreciation.

    (and i really really liked the side story about the kind “wrong number” guy in buffalo. i think i might have been tempted to continue chatting with him in the future!)

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