Archived Story

Your mother believed in you from the start

Published 9:57am Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Column: Tales from Exit 22, by Al Batt

Mother’s Day is in the past.

That’s where Mother resides. Mother and I went way back.

She went back further than I did.

Mother hadn’t had an easy life. She grew up without cable TV.

I grew up in an era when children received experimental medications like banana flips and Walnettos. Mothers went to Mom Schools where they learned how to be both coach and umpire while dealing with offspring under the influence of Tang. In Mom 101, they learned to say things that mothers have to say. Back where my childhood lived, Mother said the following.

No, you’ll put an eye out.

If you fall out of that tree and break your neck, don’t come crawling to me.

Take a jacket. Better to have it and not want it than the other way around. Mine insisted that I take a sandwich, too, in case of car trouble. That way, at least I wouldn’t starve.

Keep making that face and it will freeze in place.

I’ll knock a potato in the head and we’ll eat.

Life isn’t fair.

If it doesn’t scare the cows, it’ll be OK.

Tell it to the dust and let the rain settle it.

Every dog ought to have a few fleas.

You have nothing to fear but fear itself and your aunt Helen’s tuna casserole.

Gravy isn’t a beverage.

I suppose that if Tommy jumped off the roof, you would, too.

We open our mouths and the words of our mothers come out.

A mother is someone who can slice a pie into equal pieces. Someone who worries so we won’t have to.

In “Our Town,” a play by Thornton Wilder, Dr. Gibbs told his son, “Well, George, while I was in my office today I heard a funny sound and what do you think it was? It was your mother chopping wood. There you see your mother getting up early; cooking meals all day long; washing and ironing and still she has to go out in the back yard and chop wood. I suppose she just got tired of asking you. She just gave up and decided it was easier to do it herself. And you eat her meals, and put on the clothes she keeps nice for you, and you run off and play baseball like she’s some hired girl we keep around the house but that we don’t like very much. Well, I knew all I had to do was call your attention to it. Here’s a handkerchief, son. George, I’ve decided to raise your spending money 25 cents a week. Not, of course, for chopping wood for your mother, because that’s a present you give her, but because you’re getting older and I imagine there are lots of things you must find to do with it.”

As a boy, I had a hamster and a goldfish. I promised to care for them, but my mother was forced to assume those chores. I tried many get-poor-quick schemes. I sold newspaper subscriptions. Almost. Mother sold them for me. I sold magazines. Nearly. Mother sold them. Then I was hired at the step company. I combined sand and cement in a mixer and made concrete steps for houses and businesses. My father ordered me to quit. He didn’t want Mom mixed up in concrete.

Mom didn’t do everything for me. She refused to lick the electrical outlet. I had to do that myself. That destroyed enough tastebuds that I’m able to eat haggis, kimchi and lutefisk.

Mother played catch with me. She couldn’t catch or throw, but she tried. One day, my wild pitch broke a window. I felt guilty. My mother threw the ball through another window (already cracked) and told me to feel half as guilty.

Strickland Gillilan wrote, “You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be. I had a mother who read to me.” My mother read to me. Late in her life, when disease had taken her eyesight, I read to her.

When you do something good that amazes people, there is one person who knew you could do it. Your mother.

What do you get for a mom who does everything? A mother tears up after receiving a dandelion as a gift. It’s not because her offspring are incredibly cheap. It’s because she knows that someone’s heart came with the dandelion.

Give your mother the gift of listening.

I wish I could listen to Mom’s stories.

I settle for being thankful that her hugs last long after she let go.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.