Most writers I know are terrible on the fly, but great in revision. That’s my excuse, anyway.
Case in point, today at lunch my sister asked me the five things I love best about my mother, and I stared at her like a bewildered child. Mind you, we were sitting in a packed restaurant, surrounded by our families with TVs everywhere. There was the constant clanging of forks against plates, shuffling chairs, and restaurant patrons opening the door just at my back — I’m sure you can visualize the excuses I’m painting here.
If I’m honest, I just chickened out on the truth. How do you open up an emotional well like that while sitting over chips and salsa? Instead, I ended up thinking of the funniest things I could think of and rolled them off in a light-hearted, almost flippant way. My mother, I could tell, was probably looking for some substance. I told her I love the way she sings songs even if she doesn’t know the words. I told her I love her inability to drive, her laugh, and something else I’ve now forgotten. The conversation quickly shifted and I figured I was off the hook, but it bothered me that I couldn’t say more in that moment.
Here’s what I should have said…
I love my mother’s joy. My mother is truly one of the most joyous people I know. She’s the most joyous person most people know. Somehow, even though we had so little to offer in the way of luxury or food when I was growing up, our house was always a place our friends and family would regularly visit. We would watch movies together, have the whole youth group over for games and bible study, or just hang out, tell stories and laugh together. My “broken” home was absolutely soaked in joy, and that’s because Brenda Cave lived there.
I love my mother’s courage. I can’t imagine the fear my mother must’ve felt at the prospect of raising three young children alone. She was the breadwinner, propping up the family on paltry wages and little help, and having to exhaust the charity of family members both immediate and remote just to keep the lights on. We tore through more automobiles than I could count, but Mom would keep pressing forward, finding a way to keep us mobile, clothed and fed, no matter what it took to make it happen.
I love my mother’s selflessness. In the same way, my mother rarely ever sought things for herself. She didn’t get vacations with the family, but she made sure we could go to summer camp. She didn’t get to take date nights or nights out on the town with friends, but she did make sure we could get to any and all church functions on weekdays and weekends, and she was there every time the doors were open. Keeping me in shoes cost a small fortune, and my mother was happy with hand-me-downs in her own closet if it meant that I could have a pair of shoes that fit in mine. I wish I was more like her in this way, especially.
I love my mother’s faith. I’ve seen my mother cry when she had no idea what would happen next. I’ve seen her break down over a stack of bills, or on the side of the road when the wheels literally came off. I’ve seen her lose it, but I’ve also seen her pray her way into peace. My mother has a strong faith in God, and that faith got planted deep at Burkhalter Baptist Church, where we found an extended family we still love today. I didn’t have a dad at home, but I had Randy Murray and Charlie Cooper and Gary Mobley and Gordon Pearman and Tom Russell and dozens of others we could call at the drop of a hat. I wouldn’t have known what little I know of being a man if it weren’t for them, and for her insistence that we be active in our faith at church.
I love my mother’s friendship. I’m honestly grateful for my mother’s friendship. She’s one of my best friends in the world, and I still talk to her about life, seek her advice, ask for prayer — I can talk to her about anything, really. I get restless if we haven’t talked in the last few days, and I love to spend what little time we get together whenever we can, even if she’s really there to see my children. I put her through a lot when I was growing up, and I know she’ll always love me, but it’s good to know she likes me, too. I’m sure I didn’t always make it easy for her to do.
So that’s what I should’ve said. I mean, I absolutely do love the way she will attempt to sing a song she’s barely heard, and how, when driving, she addresses bumps or obstacles with more throttle. But those are just the fringe benefits of having her as a mother.
She keeps life interesting, and ensures that we’ll be telling stories about her long after she’s retired her license.