Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mothers Day 2017

Some people hate Mothers’ Day. Some people dread it. Women who are not technically mothers wonder if anyone cares enough to honour them by recognizing their contributions. All kinds of problems go along with the good that we say about our mothers each year at this time.

But the day continues, and should. I honour the mothers in my family, from the one who carried me in her womb to the one who had no children of her own, but became my step-mother. I have a special place in my heart for the woman I married, who is mother to our children. I honour my sisters and their families, and my nieces and their families.

Maybe we should call “Mothers’ Day” a day for all adult women, whether they are technically mothers or not, whether they are especially nurturing people or not, because women (like men) are basic to our lives. Each particular woman we honour is special in her own way—not in some sort of cookie cutter fashion that revolves around child-bearing only.

Regardless of what we should do, I am thinking of two particular women this weekend, my grandmothers. Grandma Slagenweit (my mother’s mother) was a no nonsense woman who saw a job to do and did it. I did not know her at all well, since I grew up in Zimbabwe while she lived in Pennsylvania—too far for casual weekend trips. My own mother was supposed to be like her mother, but I think the likeness had to do with her energy and approach to work: See job and do it! Grandma was not as openly affectionate as Grandpa Slagenweit (PapPap, we called him). He was the hugger, and she was not.
When mother married our father, she was packing up her belongings to move out of the family home when she realized that Grandma was not helping her. Since Grandma had helped her older brother to pack, mother asked why she wasn’t helping her too. Grandma’s reply was terse: “Andrew’s coming back.” That is, he’ll visit us often; you’re going to Africa and we won’t see you very much. The vignette shows that she loved her children deeply and grieved their parting, but was not good at processing emotions. Easier to stay out of the way!

Grandma Climenhaga (Dad’s mother) was a Smith when she married Grandpa. Emma Smith. Warm, friendly, the child in the family who held the rest of the family together. In their relationship, Grandpa C was the no-nonsense one, and Grandma was the one who showed her emotions. Another vignette: When her brother was without a job and having trouble finding a place to live, he stayed with Grandpa and Grandma in California for some time. Grandpa insisted he move out, because they could not afford to keep him long term. Grandma resisted, because he was her brother.

Both sets of grandparents loved each other deeply. The day before Grandma C died, she and Grandpa went for a walk near the home in which he grew up, in Stevensville, Ontario. They walked along the railroad track, and one of them wondered if the other remembered the day when they were courting and walked by those tracks. She had admired a wildflower growing down by the tracks, and he scrambled down the embankment to pick the flower and bring it to her. He may have been no-nonsense, but they were in love. She died that night in her sleep—soon after the shared memory of that long ago walk.

One Grandma was warm and caring, and one was no-nonsense and straightforward. Both loved their husbands and their children and worked hard through the years of the Great Depression to provide for their families. I remember them now, although both had died before we finally moved to the States to live and I did not know them well. I remember them, and I honour them this Mothers’ Day.


KGMom said...

Thank you.
I particularly think of our aunt, Leoda--who had no biologic children, but was a very nurturing force for me, and a surrogate mother for Julie and Dale after their mother's death.

Climenheise said...

I began my sermon on Sunday with some brief reflections from the blog about mothers. I mentioned Aunt Leoda specifically. I think also of other women who may have no interest in having children, but (like one of my colleagues)give birth to books. It is worth honouring the women around us for their contributions to our lives.