In recent months it has occurred to me the maze of detours I have taken in my life that could have been avoided if I had listened more carefully to the wisdom of my mother expressed in many simple phrases that reflected her philosophy of life. I’m sure these were passed down to her and in her own way she used them to create her reality about life and how to live it in the most graceful, joyful way possible for her. I never really appreciated the lessons my mother taught because I was too busy judging her from society’s standards about what a “successful” life meant.
By those standards my parents were miserable failures. We lived below the poverty line, never had access to health care and lacked health insurance, never had fashionable clothes – always wore hand me downs and went barefoot in the summer, getting a new pair of school shoes at the end of the summer. We wore those as Sunday shoes also and put cardboard in the holes until we got a new pair. We walked to school in the rain without raincoats or umbrellas and I could go on and on. My parents were uneducated; both leaving school at the 6th grade to work either in the garden or in my father’s case to support an invalid father and helpless mother and brother and sister.
Television and education taught me how unsuccessful my parents were and how “deprived” I was. My parents also realized how their lack of education had hindered them so they taught me to get an education and work hard so that I could do better than they did. I listened to that, but after I became “educated” with all the degrees and “success” to prove it, I turned to the “tree of knowledge” offered in all the self-help books, listening to all the fashionable gurus of the time and threw out any of the teachings my parents had offered as being of any value. This included their religion as well as all the “proverbs” my mother liked to quote all the time. I was determined to find the “right” path. I always showed respect for my parents but “tolerated” my mother’s “lectures” when she was trying to offer me a lesson learned from her life experience. How could she know anything?
Now in my golden years having reared two biological daughters and one “adopted” daughter who came to live with me when she was seventeen, I can now see the truth in my mother’s homespun wisdom and am actually seeing that my parents were successful because when I think about my childhood now I realize that all six children were healthy and strong and never had much need for either doctor or dentist. My father took care of most of our illnesses with his own natural remedies. Although we all had measles, mumps, whooping cough and chicken pox, we came through the illness and I can’t really remember anything but the chicken pox. I think back on the times when I walked to school in rain, cold or sunshine with a smile on my face and think about the laughter and joy in our home with parents who were always there for us providing a warm, comfortable home where they were always present in our lives, telling us how much God loved us and how much they loved us and were proud of all of us. Although I disregarded much of the homespun wisdom in searching for my own answers, it has been that love and support that has carried me through the many detours I have made by “throwing out the baby with the bath.” That was one of my mother’s favorite expressions.