Mom and me

Joy Norwood (left) and her mother, Dorothy Norwood.

While she may not always be the first person we see at birth (that is usually a doctor or nurse), she is the first person that we, as babies, develop an invisible but unbreakable bond with – our mothers.

It usually isn’t until we are adults that we realize how much our mothers sacrifice for us. Even before we are born they take on added weight, swollen ankles, odd food cravings, indigestion, not to mention our pre-born selves kicking them throughout the long days of late term pregnancy as we become more active. But no matter what they have gone through, they welcome us into the world with a smile, a cuddle and sometimes a happy tear.

I was Mom’s second child carried to birth. Her very first try at motherhood ended in a miscarriage. My older brother was born before 1960 and 16 months later I entered the world. In those days when you had a child via the caesarean method, then any others that would follow would likely be brought into the world the same way. Knowing this Mom decided to have her first and only daughter born on her birthday. Her birthday was not the original due date. In fact it was 10 days before the estimated due date. Nevertheless, that is what she asked the doctor for and that is when I was delivered, 10 days early. She did this so that she and her daughter would share an even deeper connection and could celebrate life together.

We sometimes would make it a weeklong celebration with her picking some way to celebrate “our day” and I picking another way. If she’d pick going out to dinner, I might have picked having a party at home. We’d do both in some fashion.

Mom (and Dad) would do without as their three children grew up to make sure we had happy, safe childhoods. Mom loved to shop but most of what she bought was something for us or for my grandparents or for a beloved cousin or friend. Many times she’d have me excused from elementary school so I could accompany her to Pittsburgh shopping. We’d spend the day together shopping for Christmas and having lunch before Dad, who would be calling on customers for a printing company, would pick us up and take us to dinner.

I was a teenager before I learned that she also did things that were uncomfortable to make sure I had something I enjoyed. We were in the kitchen making raspberry jam when she mentioned that the smell of the cooking raspberries made her sick. It hadn’t always been that way but when she was pregnant with me she became very sick while making raspberry jam. It is actually one of my favorites of all the jams and jellies and one I would ask her to make every summer as I grew up. Not once in all that time did she say no to cooking those sweet berries that weren’t so sweet for her anymore.

It was really after college that our bond got even closer. My work schedule at the time gave me Mondays off so that became our girls’ day out. We shop or go out for lunch, visit female friends/family or get our hair done. We’d talk and laugh, reminisce about days gone by and plan for a future vacation or family gathering.

Throughout our years together I always expected to have her in my life. I had that feeling from time I was young. As a child we don’t always know of or even recognize the sacrifices parents, especially mothers, make for us. If my siblings and I got cantankerous, she sometimes simply say, “You should be nice, you may not always have me around.” To a child, a mother is expected to always be there – forever. She’d always been there in my life. I figured that I’d be in my 60s and she’d be in her 80s (with Dad). I used to tease her about what our life would be like then – sitting on rocking chairs on the porch (surrounded by cats). But life doesn’t always follow the plans we make and the unexpected happens more often than not. It will be 17 years this fall since she passed but I think she’s likely smiling down at Dad sitting on the porch surrounded by cats. It seems her words should have been taken more as a warning to enjoy the time I had with her. I look back on our girl days and thank the Lord that we had those times together.

It doesn’t matter that I can no longer see her or talk to her face to face. Her advice and lessons taught across those many years still remain – many taught by example. From her I learned how to treat people with kindness and to listen to what people have to say. Mom took note of what was going on in the lives of people around her, not just friends and families but even the nurses she would talk with when going to a doctor’s appointment. If one was expecting a child, the next time she saw them she’d check to see how they were doing and more often than not would have had a small little gift – a cassette of lullabies for the baby or a pair of booties. It wasn’t anything extravagant but just something to let the new or soon-to-be mother know that someone cared about her and remembered her.

Today is Mother’s Day and while she may be gone from this life she is leading me by her examples of how to live life. They are there whenever I remember our time together. So I wish her a Happy Mother’s Day and I wish the same for all the mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers and adopted mothers. May your day be blessed with family, love, laughter and happy surprises.