Friday, March 1, 2013

A Mother Who Worked

(This is an excerpt from my upcoming  book Faith Breezes.  I post it today in honor of my mother's 89th birthday.)

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”  Ecclesiastes 9: 10

            I have recently been searching for my mother.  O, I know where her physical body is but the person who spends her days slumped over in a wheelchair in a facility that takes remarkably good care of her is not my mother.  She is but she’s not.  She barely recognizes me…hasn’t called me by name in months…and her memory has lost all the beautiful things of her life.

I asked my friend “What do you remember about my mother?”  Since I live in the town where I grew up I have many friends who passed through our home and have memories of her.

 “The image I have of your mother is working at the fruit stand.  Most of us girls had never seen a working mom, and she was very unique to me.  I wondered how she did it and was a housewife too.  She was ahead of her time in that respect and a role model to some of us.”

Kind words from a sweet friend I’ve known since early childhood.  And she pegged her.  Mama worked.  She was following in the footsteps of another remarkable woman who did what she needed to do to survive the poverty of the Depression.  In the depths of that gosh-awful time, her mother went to work in the packing house, slapping oranges and grapefruit into cartons with lightning speed.  Because her family needed to eat.  I remember visiting that packing house and watching her pack box after box, standing on her feet for hours on end because she was paid by the box.  So Mama had her role model, too.

As I think about her life today, two words come to mind: work ethic.  My mother had a work ethic few could match.  Anybody wanting to keep up with her had to pick ‘em up and lay ‘em down.  She could walk faster than anybody I’ve ever known and most of the time the territory she was covering was from the front to the back or the back to the front of our citrus retail store.  She took care of merchandising the front end which meant thousands of jars of jelly and cans of orange blossom honey.  She was the one that stocked the chocolate fudge alligators and the pecan logs. 

And then she went home and cooked supper. 

If I could wish one thing for her, I wish she could have found some balance for her life.  I recall the story of Mary and Martha from the Bible.  Jesus had come to visit the two sisters.  Mary was totally focused on every word he had to say, literally sitting at his feet to soak up his presence.  Martha went nuts, doing and fixing so everything would be just right for their meal.  Jesus finally had to scold her.  “You’re worried and upset about many things but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her.”  

Even in times of leisure – which were rare – Mama was still busy.  If nothing else she was working at the business of play.  One thing is sure, whatever her hand found to do she did it with all her might.

Faith Breeze:  She found her Mary time with her grandchildren.  Thanks to her, they all enjoyed many days of fun at places like Magic Kingdom and Weeki Wachee Springs.  Her pool was their playground. 

Happy birthday, Mama.