When you grow up in a house with multiple siblings you usually get multiple versions of how your childhood happened. There’s what you personally witnessed. There’s what your sister recollects. There’s also what your brother remembers. Somewhere among the murky details that cloud our memories lies the truth. The unabashed truth, so help me God.
On any given holiday or Sunday lunch you could find all of us heavily debating the important family issues:
Who was the favorite child? Me, of course.
Who got away with more childhood crimes? My brother…without a doubt.
Who was the smartest child? Hands down, my sister.
Some things were indisputable but our love for exaggerated stories and accusations always kept the laughter alive. Often, the verbal sparring was all in good fun and light hearted.
However, during one particular Sunday lunch many years ago the taunting took a sharp turn for the worse when one of my siblings alluded to the fact that Eva Gail’s mothering skills may not have been compliant with today’s standard of care. Although I started to laugh it took me a millisecond to see the “Zwolle” look in my mother’s eyes. My laugh was suddenly gulped away as I saw the lives of my siblings flash before my eyes.
Eva Gail may have been a sweet preacher’s wife but she was no stranger to expressing her anger.
The rest of the day was a bit awkward and no one dared elaborate on what was said. We were overly polite and accommodating with everyone and it was as if we didn’t even share the same last name. It was evident mom’s feelings were hurt. It was evident my dad was nervous about the ride home with her. Normally my dad is a quick visitor. He always has something to do and must get there quickly. On this day he lingered. He was camping out at my house until it was absolutely necessary for them to leave.
He knew what awaited him in the vehicle.
Later that night, just as expected I heard from my sister and we rehashed where things might have gone wrong. Once we played the highlight reel we discovered that we joked about the same things just as we had many times before. The replays included how we think we received more spankings than the average child. We were made to go to church every time the doors were open. Even for cleaning day. We included how our parents left us alone at a very young age (I am guessing the statute of limitations has run out on this one). We included how our little brother always seemed to escape punishment. He may not agree with that but if two people witnessed the same thing it must be true.
We were feeling bold about our accusations and we were prepared to stand behind them once Eva Gail confronted us. We chalked it up to her just being overly sensitive. We were going to set her straight.
Almost like clockwork as soon as I hung up with my sister my mom called. Her voice was completely different then I’d ever heard before. She was deeply hurt over what we thought was comical and was beginning to think she was a horrible mother. When I heard the pure hurt in her voice I fully vacated the pact my sister and I made earlier and went into rescue mode. It broke my heart to hear my mom so upset. We talked on the phone for a very long time and we finally hung up when I felt like she understood we were joking and there was no other mother we would have rather had.
Like all family squabbles it was quickly forgiven by the next family dinner.
Mother’s Day was around the corner and that year I chose to give my mother a card with a hand-written note that included a list of all the things she had done right as a mother. When she read the note she was teary eyed and after an extremely long pause she said, “I cannot believe how much you write like me.” She was correct. I joked with her that I spent my high school years perfecting her signature. I really expected she would say something more profound and meaningful. But, at least she knew that every kind act she ever performed meant something to me and shaped the woman I was becoming.
My mother passed away in 2011. Not too long after the funeral I was helping my father organize her belongings to donate and we ran across the handwritten note that I gave to my mother some 10 years prior. She had tucked it away in a box along with some other miscellaneous items. I was really astonished that she had kept it all those years and all I could think of after all this time is how she was right. I did write like her. Just like her.
A mother’s nature is to know their children better than any other person on this planet. A mother’s nature is to nurture their children and be supportive of their dreams and love them unconditionally. A mother’s nature can also be very sensitive and always second guessing our skills as a mother. We just hope we are doing it right….if not it will come out years down the road at a random Sunday dinner.
My siblings and I were blessed with the most amazing Eva Gail that anyone could ever ask for.
“Strength and dignity are her clothing and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, he praises her”