Trying to resurrect my earliest memories of Mom is like looking through the viewfinder of a camera which is gradually coming into focus.
I can see our small house in Wichita, Kan. My dog, Skippy, is playing in the yard. My brother is a baby. My dad is sitting in the armchair, one leg crossed over the other. And Mom? She's there, on the periphery, I know she is. For I sense the comfort of her presence. And, besides, Mom has always been there.
I have so many memories of my Mom. But some of my most vivid memories are of Mom in control. Mom was definitely a "take charge" kind of woman.
As a tornado threatened our neighborhood, mom calmly gathered us up, grabbed a bag of candy bars and headed for the neighbor's storm cellar. I can remember holding my mom's hand as we scurried toward the safety of the underground cement structure. The menacing, dark gray cloud in the distance was frightening, but the bag of Mars bars clutched in my mom's hand was a simple but effective distraction from the terror of the moment for a 5 year-old little girl.
Somehow, Mom knew it would be.
Like most women, mom became adept at fixing things. I don't mean broken pipes or rusty hinges. Mom fixed broken hearts and torn sleeves and cut fingers. She created stability out of the nomadic lifestyle created by my dad's career. When dad became disabled and was out of work, she temporarily became the breadwinner. Like most early memories, early memories of my mother are hazy and undefined. And years later, when Dad passed away from an aggressive form of cancer, she returned to work to support her family.
I've always felt my mom was the smartest, most creative, strongest woman I've ever known. But looking back, there were moments that cause me to question her sanity.
Shortly after my dad passed away, Mom bought a new car. Feeling that a road trip would take the edge off our sadness, Mom planned a trip. A trip to Canada. Driving hundreds of miles. With her four children. Mom added to the craziness by allowing my best friend to come along. So, there we were - a 32 year-old grieving widow, two hormonally driven 16-year-old girls and three young children in a Mercury station wagon on a cross-country trip to a foreign country. What could mom have been thinking?
It was the best trip of our lives.
I've discovered that a child's need for their mother doesn't go away, even when they become adults. When I was in labor with my first child, my desire to have my mother at my side was as strong as the contractions. When trouble visited my life, I sought the counsel and comfort of my mother. When I had cause for celebration, I thought first of sharing my happiness with my mom.
Like many mother-daughter relationships, I didn't always understand my mother and she didn't always understand me. It wasn't until I became a mother myself that a sense of understanding and awareness dawned on me. I began to realize the sacrifices my mother made. I began to understand the dilemma of motherhood and the constant effort it takes to maintain balance in the lives of our children. I began to experience for myself the battle between doing what is right, what is necessary and what is best for the good of my child. And every step of my journey into motherhood was supported and encouraged by my mother.
Now that my mother is a great-grandmother, she has become reflective and questions her own mothering. I guess that's natural, for I find myself doing the same. But, I know one thing - my mom was the best. And I have never felt for anyone else the same high level of awe, love and respect that I have felt for my mother.
I consider myself fortunate. My mother was, and is, a great role model. And if my children develop even a fraction of the same feelings towards me, I will truly be blessed.
Theresa Larson is the Lodi News-Sentinel's administration manager. She is married and the mother of five children. Her column appears the first and third Wednesday of the month. She can be contacted at 125 N. Church St., (209) 369-2761 or via e-mail.