Are We Not All Mothers?

By May 10, 2013 June 20th, 2019 11 Comments

a repost…because Mother’s Day always makes me think of Patty.

Are we not all mothers?  -Sherri Dew

By the time I was 12 years old, I had six inches on Patty Hamilton.  She was 20 years older than me, but could pass as my sister.  And I was pretty shrimpy.  Patty was my Sunday school teacher, then moved up to the older classes with me, as I grew into a teenager.  I did grow, just not very much.  She never grew.

In seventh grade I wanted to be beautiful, not cute.  I came to detest that word, but Patty, small and cute herself, would laugh like a little mouse that reluctantly made me smile too.

Patty taught me how to laugh at myself, to see the world as a cup half full, make a chocolate shake and write calligraphy.  We spent a lot of time together.  I saw her cry when one of our practical jokes went too far. But I never heard a mean word, saw anger or a bad temper.  She loved everyone, especially those hard to love.  She loved my twin brother, the long-haired, defiant boy with the nose ring.

Patty mastered the art of the hand-written note.  Like her, even the handwriting was cute. I still have a stack of cards and notes in her tight calligraphed handwrighting.  One birthday card said, “If I had a daughter I’d want her to be just like you.” 

I think that is when I really thought about the kind of person I wanted to be.  It was like she had a magic ball that said, “maybe that shrimpy, little girl has some promise.” Her belief in me made me want to believe it too.

When I left for college, my excitement hardly contained a backwards glance, not an ounce of nostalgia.  I was ready to fly.  Patty continued to faithfully write her notes on colored stationary and loopy cursive writing.  She always remembered my birthday.

Patty wasn’t biologically related, but she was a mother to me.  Motherhood, I have come to realize, comes in the most versatile of packaging.  It is every woman’s gift, every woman’s opportunity.

It’s my own mother giving me life, teaching me piano, to love books, to never gossip. 

It’s playing Hi Ho Cheery-O! (for the hundredth time!) only because my little girl loves it. 

It’s showing a child how to brush, floss and wipe.  Or not.  There are some who bottle-feed their baby, coca-cola.

Motherhood is soft, and sadly, sometimes so hard.

It’s a stay-at-home-mom, a working mom, a young girl going to work and school full-time.

It’s doing the hard things.  Sometimes it’s lazy. 

It’s showing up when it’s important.  It’s forgetting too.

It’s deliberate or meaningless. 

It’s scrimping so a child can play lacrosse.

It’s saying “No” when everyone else says yes. 

It’s living with spit-up on your shoulder or wishing for someone to spit-up on you.

It’s a woman children adore or run from.

It’s having eight children or one.  It’s adopting, fostering, or hugging the bullied kid at school. 

Motherhood is the heartbreak of infertility while volunteering hours of time to youth.

It’s snorting crack while a little boy cries outside the door.

It’s breaking the cycle and saying, “Never again.”

It’s grieving when the baby leaves for kindergarten, but still saying, “School will be the best!”

Motherhood is baking cookies and making flowered crafts.  It’s the woman who can’t cook toast. 

It’s all that laundry.

It’s teaching a child to wash windows when it’s easier not to, losing your temper at the piano or steeling yourself with patience.

It’s young, wrinkled, and in-between.

It’s the rough hand, the manicured nail.

It’s the sleep-deprived walking zombie who still loves to rock her baby to sleep.

It’s realizing why we were given time in the first place.

After I left for college, I flew back home over Thanksgiving break to attend Patty’s funeral. Born with a rare blood disease that killed three of her siblings, Patty was tiny, but had lived long into adulthood.  Her one surviving sister found me at the gravesite and said, “She loved you so much.”  Patty had trained her family well.  Even after she was gone, her father sent me a birthday card every year until he was gone too.

I can no longer recall every moment spent with Patty, but I will always remember how she made me feel, when I was a child.

Surely she wanted a family to grow old with, but she never married, never had any biological children of her own. I wish I had thought more about her feelings when I was fifteen; such is the nature of the age, but she never gave me reason to wonder if she wanted more.  She had me; I was one of her many children.  There were so many others like me.  And never once did we wonder if we were enough.  She made us feel like we were everything.

Motherhood is a gift, a calling.  Asked for and not.  Longed for or thrust upon us. Used well, cherished or wasted.  For good, better, bad, or worse, it is every woman’s opportunity.  We are all mothers.



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