This guest post is part of our Month of Mothering. We’re featuring the words of women (and a few men!) from a variety of walks of life. In recognition that all mothers want what’s best for their baby, and knowing we all have different ways of achieving that, we welcome commentaries and experiences from mothers of all different philosophies and practices.
When my daughter asked me to write about my mother, my first thought was that this would be a wonderful opportunity to talk about the greatest mother ever (possibly only this writer’s opinion). But, over the last several weeks, I realized how ill equipped I am to put into words the person, the warmth, the love and the experiences she gave me. I began to ask myself how a guy who flunked Mr. Resnick’s English class – for failure to include footnotes on his term paper – was going to find the words that would keep the readers’ attention beyond the first sentence.
Then it came to me. I had all I needed in the many stories about her that demonstrate Mary’s versatility as a mother. She was everything to us and she did everything well.
Her kids came to calling her Mary later in life. She was always Mum to us as children, but she was Mary to everyone who knew and loved her, young and old. So Mary it is.
Mary vs Technology
I don’t want to give anyone the impression that Mary was against progress. She strongly believed in and was very vocal about the causes of women, minorities and the oppressed – you know, people who were forced to use VCRs and answering machines or as she called it – “my answering service.” It’s fair to say she did not get along with machines. On one summer vacation that we took with her sister Annette, Mary had the whole family lined up for a picture for what seemed like hours. When I got up to help her with the camera, I realized that she had picked up my sister’s transistor radio and she had been trying to find the shutter button! She just giggled.
After she’d had a couple of minor fender benders, Mary gave up driving. She felt cars had become way too complicated. Of course, that was never a problem for her. There was always someone ready to take her anywhere she wanted to go.
Mary in the Kitchen
For an Irish lass, she sure could make some impressive chicken cacciatore. I have never been able to recreate that dish the way she made it. Maybe there was something more to it though – like the wonderful feeling of coming in to her kitchen, hungry from a long day of playing with my friends, that made it smell and taste so good.
Among other things, Mary did teach me that, if there is anything at all in the refrigerator, you can make a good dinner. That was a challenge during my college years, I will admit.
I remember as a very young boy, coming into the kitchen for lunch and Mary was making onion soup, which she loved. She offered to share it with me and got out two small bowls. She poured my soup and I sat down across from her. As she brought her bowl to the table, it slipped and spilled on the floor. I felt bad enough that she had shared her lunch, but now had none herself. When I told her we could share my soup, she gave me the biggest hug. Onion soup was her favorite.
Mary and her Kids
My two sisters and I felt very loved and very lucky to have a mum like Mary who was our cheerleader, our friend, our confidante, our therapist, our chauffeur, our chef and our biggest fan. Yet she never yelled or nagged. We knew what she expected and we wanted to please her and make her proud. I still wonder how she did that, and my admiration for her and my amazement grow, especially after raising kids of my own.
As we all got older we knew that we had to watch Mary to make sure we could anticipate her needs. The last thing she wanted to do was ‘bother’ her kids. When, in fact, that is the very thing that we wanted her to do. Even as I write this, I feel the smiles return and know that sadness is not something that I’ll ever really associate with my mother. I miss her, but I giggle too.
I still love Mary and I still love onion soup.
Ted McGrory is the very proud father of four and grandfather of one. He grew up in West Roxbury in a different time, before 9/11, cell phones and computers. Now, he tests computer software and lives on Cape Cod with the love of his life. He plans to retire fairly soon and intends to get better at golf. He has to. His wife is getting really good.