Since I was with my step-mother, the event got me to thinking about mothers. Herewith, a few thoughts.
What makes a woman a mother? You might think the obvious answer--she has a child or children. And, in a sense, you would be right--but I will be more expansive than your answer might have intended. To be the mother of a child means that you nourish someone, in a loving maternal way. And that does not require that you have actually borne a child.
She is the heart and soul of steady, unflinching goodness. My mother, Dorcas, would have been a hard act to follow. She was a great woman. Verna Mae had neither need nor inclination to compete with that kind of person. Verna Mae is calm, low-key, solid, and grounded. I don't think she has ever been threatened by the memory of my mother.
Here's part of what makes Verna Mae amazing to me--she had never been married before she married my father. Perhaps, she thought she would live her life out quite happily as an independent unmarried woman. That she was willing to consent to marry my father is a great thing for our family--that's the amazing part: her willingness to trade her life to that point for the unknown.
Maybe you begin to get the drift of this partly rambling reverie on motherhood. Verna Mae had no children--at least none that she gave birth to. But she has loved me and my brother and sister. She loves our children. So she is every bit a mother and grandmother to us all.
There have been several women in my life who are mothers without having had children. Previously, I have written about my favorite aunt. She has never married, and has never had children--but, oh, did she ever provide loving nurture to me. She nurtured a love of classical music in me. She took me to see movies when I was a child (which, truth be told, were verboten as far as my very strict grandfather was concerned), and she enthusiastically discusses politics with me.
She also exemplifies how being a mother (or grandmother) means nurturing children. She lives in a town in New York state, some 20 miles north of New York City. Across the street from her house lives a family where twins were born about 13 or 14 years ago. When the young couple who had the twins asked for my aunt's help caring for the babies, my aunt's first reaction was HELP. "I don't know anything about . . ." (fill in the blank with some essential baby care skill)--that's what she told me.
But, she pitched in. And over the years, she has become the grandmother for those twins. They come to her house every Sunday morning, giving their parents a wonderful time of quiet and respite. She has patiently answered the questions these sweet girls have asked. She lets them do things, such as draw on the walls, that would no doubt be absolutely forbidden in their own house.
Believe me, I could go on. It fills me with sweet comfort and deep pleasure to know that not only did my own mother, and grandmothers love me fiercely, but so do my step-mother and my aunt.
So, here's to all the mothers--whether the children they have were born from their bodies or from their hearts.
One more quick "mother" update. The first of the baby doves has hatched. Scrawny little thing, really. But the mother dove is rather fiercely protective of this seemingly inconsequential bit of fluff.