Saturday, May 7, 2016

My Favorite Mother's Day Memory

Ruth Kelley Lovette
Today is Mother’s Day a time to pause and remember Mama. There are many reasons why we all need this day. We are connected to our mothers in ways we are linked to no other. For nine months we lived close to her heart. We swam in the security of her body. And when we finally did make our entrance into the world some mother or mother surrogate fed us, diapered us, held us close and kept us safe. It is no wonder that Ana Jarvis began a campaign in 1907 in Philadelphia to establish a national day to honor mothers. She chose the second Sunday in May which was the anniversary of her own mother’s death. She campaigned hard until finally President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 made Mother’s Day an official holiday. 

We all have our Mama stories. One of my favorites happened when I was in the seventh or eighth grade. My mother never had many advantages in many ways. Married at sixteen, worked in a cotton mill until her retirement, her world was small. Family, mill, church were the parameters of her life. 

But she was determined her boys would have more chances than she had. Early she introduced my brother and me to books and encouraged us to read. Our little four-room house was filled with books. Discovering I had an interest in music she pieced together enough money to buy a good used piano. I never thought about the sacrifices that purchase must have cost until years later. The arrival of that piano was followed by weekly piano lessons and encouragement to practice, practice, practice. 
One day the piano teacher told my mother she thought it would be a good thing for me to go to a concert and to hear a great pianist play. My mother knew no classical music or the names of any concert pianist. So when it was announced that a great pianist was coming to our town, she bought the tickets and waited for the night to come.  

One afternoon after work she told me this was the night. After an early supper she put on her Sunday clothes, made sure I was presentable and we walked to the corner and waited for the bus. We rode three miles downtown and then transferred to another bus that would take us to the High School five miles away where the concert would be held.

We got off the bus and entered the crowded room. A woman pointed upstairs to where our seats would be. We found our places in the balcony and sat down. I looked around at a sea of faces. On the stage there was a beautiful grand piano. The lights dimmed. A small distinguished man dressed in a tuxedo came from behind the curtain and the audience began to applaud. My mother whispered, “That’s Artur Rubenstein! They say he’s one of the greatest pianists there is.” The room was quiet as the great man began to play.

I had never heard music like that before. I was mesmerized by the man at the piano and the music that washed over me. Once in a while my Mother would look at me, squeeze my hand and smile. It was her first concert, too. 

When the concert ended we walked out the door and waited for the bus. Finally the bus came and we rode to town, caught a second bus which would take us home. We must have gotten home about eleven o’clock which was late for someone who had to be at work the next morning at seven. 

That night was the opening of a door. Maybe my mother knew there would be a great many events that would follow that night. There would be high school and college and trips that would take me north and west and friends from all over. There would be books to read and other nights sitting in other balconies waiting for the music to begin. There would be a bride in Kentucky and two children my mother dearly loved. There would be churches and vacations and a world so much larger than she, or I had never envisioned.  She never complained about the sacrifices she had made or the constrictions of her hard life. What she did do was what all good mothers do—she opened a door.   
After the sudden death of his little daughter Mark Twain wrote that grief was like the burning down of one’s house. It would take years and years to reckon with the loss. I still reckon with the loss of my mother after her death in the late eighties. It has taken me years and years to look back down that long road and reckon with a multitude of blessings my Mother brought my way.

(This article has been published in several newspapers and I have published it on my blog some time ago. I print it again as as tribute to a very great lady.)

--Roger Lovette /


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