Bill Maxwell

Never forget your mother

Many of us have lost our mothers. My mother died in 2006, so this is my second Mother's Day without her.

If you still have your mother, you are among the fortunate, and you should celebrate. You should spend some quality time with her.

Besides the old standbys, such as giving her flowers, perfume, jewelry and gift baskets and taking her to her favorite restaurant, you could go further, and more meaningfully, and apologize to her for all the trouble you gave her over the years. Remember those unrealistic demands you placed on your mom; how selfish you were?

Show me someone who has not given his or her mother grief. I certainly embarrassed my mother several times as a teenager.

When I was 13 or 14, for example, my mom had to come for me at the Fort Lauderdale police station. My buddies, Snake Eye and Cuss, and I had always fished for blue crab in the same area on the New River near Las Olas Boulevard.

During the summer in question, a shiny white yacht moored in our spot. Ignoring the captain's warnings to take "that trash" — our nets and buckets and chicken necks — elsewhere, we crabbed anyway, pulling in a "good mess."

Of course, we talked back to the captain. This was our spot. The police came, took us to the station and contacted our parents, in my case, my mom, Jeanette. Although I brought home a lot of blues for supper that night, my mom was not happy with "some jailbird," as she referred to me, even though I had not been arrested.

If your mom is anything like mine was, she will be surprised and grateful that you appreciate her wisdom and compassion enough to apologize for being a jerk.

After apologizing to your mother, you could thank her for being there for you from the moment of conception and beyond, when she nurtured you, picked you up and gave you confidence and stayed up with you on those nights when you were ill and could not sleep. Remember, too, when she suffered your insolence in silence and with dignity?

Celebrate her and let her know she is special.

If, for some reason, you and your mother are estranged, take the lead to reconcile your differences, even if you believe she is at fault. Do not let the day pass without reaching out to the woman who brought you into the world.

If your mother has died, collect your fondest memories of her. Besides photographs and other physical stuff, memories are all you have now.

What I remember most vividly about my mom are the intangibles, the values she lived and tried to pass on to her six children.

Foremost, mom taught us that being poor is no excuse for failure. To the contrary, in fact, being poor is the best reason to succeed, she repeatedly said in her unadorned way. Being poor is the best reason to keep your environment clean, she would say. Our homes were always spotless inside and out.

The outside of our home was important because it was "the first thing folks saw," my mom would say. Each day, we did "yard pick up." Trash and debris were not permitted on the premises or the easement.

She also stood firm on personal hygiene. "Keep your private person clean," she would say. "You ain't got money, so you better be clean."

She insisted that my sisters always left the house with "clean underwear with no holes or anything." I often heard her ask my sisters if they were "decent enough" to leave the house. She gave the boys the same lecture, of course, but she did not check on us as closely. To this day, however, my three brothers are well-groomed and natty dressers.

My far-from-perfect mother also believed that school was her children's salvation. We rarely missed classes. Under the threat of a leather belt, we did our homework religiously, and we never "sassed" our teachers. She wanted all of us to attend college. Four of us did, two with doctorates.

If your mother is still with you, never for a moment take her for granted. Embrace her and kiss her every chance you get. Tell her often that you love her.

Never forget your mother 05/10/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 13, 2008 9:39am]

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