Monday, April 26, 2010

My Mother

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter... to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring - these are some of the rewards of the simple life."

~John Burroughs ~

My mother and I talk on the phone about once a week to catch up on each other’s news; she finds out how we’re all doing in our new city, and I get to hear about how she’s faring on her own since my dad passed away. She hasn’t visited our home yet in our new city, but I’m hoping to get her down here this summer. It’s not that she doesn’t want to come; it’s that traveling is more difficult for her now. As she gets older, but especially since she’s been widowed, she is much more reluctant to be away from home, even if it’s only for a weekend. Her home, her routine and her familiar surroundings are her sanctuary. Her friends, her shops, her church and her doctors are all nearby; this gives her a sense of security and peace of mind. So for now, the phone is our way of sharing news and information.

As I get older, I begin to realize that there are a lot of qualities my mother has that I never quite noticed before; qualities that I appreciate more and more as the years go by. In addition to being upbeat, sociable and extremely generous, my mother is one of the most down-to-earth people I know. She has never focused on material objects or status to bring her happiness. Instead, she has always found joy in the simple things in life: her happy marriage, her children and grandchildren, her garden, her knitting, her church, the closeness she shares with her siblings, nieces and nephews, her few but good friends, and her community. She’s never owned or cared for designer clothing, expensive furniture, fancy cars or a big house. She never wore makeup, frequented fancy hair salons, sprayed on expensive perfume or slipped her feet into high-priced shoes. Not only has she never cared for any of these things, she’s never understood the need or desire for them. Or felt deprived in any way because she didn’t experience them. It’s something she doesn’t think or worry about. And because of this, she’s always been happy; completely and utterly satisfied with her life.

Lately, when I speak to my mother, I’ve begun to notice things I didn’t notice before: the way she lights up when she talks about the antics of the birds that she feeds in her backyard (something she’s enjoyed for years); how animated she becomes when she describes a meal she prepared and how wonderful it turned out; how upset she is when she talks about a TV show she watched about children starving around the world; how excited she sounds when she talks about the upcoming garden season; how thrilled she is that a loved one called her or dropped by for a visit. I have essentially discovered, after so many years, and as if for the first time, just how genuine and simple my mother is. And just how much it means to me to have a role model like her. I suppose this ‘discovery’ has always been there, because now that I think about it, never in all my years (not during my childhood, adolescence, early adult years or now), have I ever seen a materialistic side to my mother or heard her moan or groan about not having this, that or the other thing. She’s always been modest, authentic and extremely content with her life. And now that she’s getting older and fully aware that she’s at the last stage of her life, every now and then she’ll mention what a wonderful life she’s had, especially the years with my father, and how peacefully and contentedly she will leave this world when her time comes.

The other day, I was telling my husband just how much I admire and cherish this side of my mother; that if I could inherit anything from her, it would be her simple, happy and spirited nature. That being able to find happiness in the simple things in life is the most wonderful way to be. That being in a state of perpetual contentedness is the ultimate goal in life. That I’d like to find myself in the same state as her when I reach the last stage of my life; perfectly satisfied with the life I lived with no regrets and no bitterness.

After all, what could be more gratifying than to leave this earth with your spirit and soul utterly at peace?


  1. This is such a lovely tribute to your mother, Martha. She sounds like a beautiful soul. The older I get, the more I admire people who have this kind of purity of spirit and who live their lives completely true to who they are. I hope you are able to get her to visit this summer---I know you must be eager to give her a big hug. I'll bet she would have enjoyed seeing that blue jay in the birdbath---I sure did! :-)

  2. Beth, these are the types of people I seek in my life because I enjoy their company. Down to earth individuals are happy, interesting and easy to be with. Pretentious people bore me; they are so tiresome going on and on about their things. And as I get older, I'm less and less patient with them.

    I hope to get my mother down this year; she will love the backyard and all the little critters that hang around. And yes, she would have been thrilled watching the blue jay taking a bath. She's be telling everyone about it when she returned home. I'm hoping to convince her to come down this summer; she doesn't like to go far away from home anymore.

  3. I wish I had more of those qualities myself! While I'm not pretentious by any stretch, I do enjoy material things and struggle with the side of me that wants to grumble about having to budget at all!

    I love people like your mother who can point the way to gentle appreciation of the simple things as they inspire me to do the same.

  4. Tatiana, I know very few people like my mother; she's a rare character. And what's really amazing is that she's truly and sincerely happy; she's never felt deprived of anything. I find her amazing.