I am thinking of my mother these days before Mother’s Day. There are no words to express my gratitude for her: her bright and questing mind, her compassionate heart, her sassy way of arguing with the world, the way she thought there was no end to my and my sister’s potential. She taught us to love God and the world he made. She showed us how to live our lives outward on a daily basis. She was a warrior on her knees and would (and did!) fight the devil himself for our souls. I received this letter from her in the early 70s, and I wanted to share it with you.
Dear Gloria, Bill, and children,
It is good to be alive and see the fast-moving panorama of history being made in our world. We are living in explosive and important days. But...
We are full of self-praise of our unheard-of achievements, and lazy with our luxurious conveniences. We have paid a dear price for progress, and have been robbed in the process of sacred beauties, smells, and sounds that only the wind in the pines can suggest. The tantalizing memories of common things are drowned out by the metallic clicking of computers and the static radio interference of electric fences. Our speed and world-wide communications are marred by smog and antenna, which pollute our air and mark up our sky-lines. We strive to take a walk around the earth in endless space, and miss the joy of a simple walk around our gardens with a small child, the real wonder of the universe!
Yes, we accept these marvels with gratitude, but I am glad I have lived to see some other things, to feel the down-to-earth blessings of little pleasures, to hear the sounds of different springs and to smell the aromas associated with a much less complex life. I am glad I have lived to remember:
A man plowing with a walking plow and a team of horses, his lines tied around his waist, and his dog following quietly behind him. I have smelled the fresh-turned sod, and watched silver winged blackbirds picking up fat worms in the last furrow.
A dash-churn, a wooden spoon worn thin from many stirrings, and bumpy from the tooth marks of little babies who have cut their teeth on its rugged edges.
A hand-hewn potato masher, and a “butter-print.” Fox-fire in a damp, dark woods, its eerie glow piercing the mist of a mucky swamp.
A one-room school house, with “dinner buckets” which were originally syrup-pails, standing in their shiny rows.
A “bobwhite’s” nest, and turtle eggs hatching in the hot sand. A mother opossum resting herself in the sun with her rat-tailed youngsters hissing, and tumbling over each other across her pouched belly.
An old-fashioned hog butchering, with barrels of scalding water, and kettles of rendering lard and sizzling cracklings. The after-treat of fresh country sausage and hot biscuits.
Sliced apples, and cut-off corn drying on snow-white sheets and covered with cheesecloth on the sunny side of a shed roof. A dish pan full of wilted lettuce fresh from a spring garden.
A new-born calf getting a “wave-set” from his mother’s wet tongue. Lilies-of-the-valley bowing gently in the soft breezes around the tombstones in a country church yard. A mother hen warning her clueless brood that a hawk is lingering near.
Trillium and May-apples blooming in a budded woods. My father splitting logs along the river bank. I can still hear the quick out-let of his breath as the heavy mall made contact with the battered wedges.
Frozen ruts in a country lane, and ice designs in hoof-print puddles. Mud dropping like too-stiff frosting from wagon wheels, throwing ruffled chunks along the roadway.
Real burning candles on a Christmas tree! Home-made bread cooling on the reservoir of the old black, wood burning cook stove. Hunting a bee tree, and stealing the honey. The haunting call of the whip-poor-will at dusk.
Yes, it is interesting to watch on television the very battles of our men in the armed services on the other side of the world. It is marvelous to ride 80 miles an hour in the luxury of air-conditioned cars on our super highways. It is great to listen to stereophonic music, to enjoy push-button heating and have instant food . . . but there is a price to pay, and we are paying it.
Once, our big boys quit school to help “Dad.” Now, we have shifty-eyed, shaggy-haired delinquents who roam our streets and shuffle down our halls in search of “kicks.” It seems that the more we obtain of this world’s goods the less we really appreciate those who provide them. The more God gives us, the less we obey Him. I am sure this need not be, and evil brings its own destruction. None-the-less, we are paying a price for progress, and I am glad I have known these others things.
I am wondering what my mother would add to her list if she were here to write to me today. Cell phones that keep us from looking at each other including our children? Churches that smell of mildew and empty pews? Kitchen tables around which families only gather on holidays? Condo elevators instead of screened doors that squeak and bounce shut with the constant traffic of family activity?
Knowing my mother, though, I think she would love millennials and gen-xers for their inquisitive minds, their ability to ferret out phonies, and their amazing ability to navigate a complicated and often dangerous world. Her front porch would still be a stopping-by place for three generations of seekers with honest questions and a ready sense of humor. She would still be taking them “for a little walk around the creek” to see the newly hatched swan signets or inside to peer over the back deck to see the outrageous blooms on the magnolia I once pulled up and dumped on the trash pile. The coffee pot would still be on, the Bible with all its markings would still be open on the table, and a Mason jar full of zinnias she’d just cut from the yard would be there to give you when you left.