Yesterday was Mother’s Day and all around the country I’m sure mothers everywhere celebrated with family or friends. I lost my own mother when I was 21 and when she left this world, we were on slightly strained speaking terms. More like two strong spirited women who didn’t always appreciate the other’s point of view.
But when I think about my mother now, I’ve come to realize the many gifts she gave me while growing up in the swamps of Louisiana…
I can only imagine what went through my mother’s mind each day as she struggled to keep food on the table and clothes on our backs. As a child, I hated to sit down for a meal because I was never sure what would be waiting for me on my plate. Things most people disposed of would end up on the menu…fish HEADS, chicken FEET and rooster COMBS, pig’s INTESTINES…and we were expected to eat it or get beaten for refusing it. As a child I often wondered why Mother was so cruel to force us to eat those things. As an adult I now realize it was either eat that or NOTHING. I now realize the sacrifices my mother made so her children had something… anything…in their bellies each day. As an adult, I have a very simple palette where food is concerned and appreciate the fact there are some foods that will NEVER have to cross my lips again!
My mother was the queen of patching things up…making things last (a result of living through the home front challenges of World War II I imagine)…and being the youngest of four kids, I was usually stuck with everyone else’s hand me downs. It was bad enough I had to walk around in my sisters’ cast offs, but when I was forced to attend school in a dead woman’s dress, I wanted the ground to swallow me up! Mother had one of those old trundle sewing machines, and one day when she’d heard about a yard sale for a neighbor who recently died, she decided to buy all those old lady’s dresses just so she could rip out the seams, cut them down to our size, and sew them back together for our new school wardrobe. Can you imagine what went through my ten-year-old mind when I was forced to wear THOSE hand me downs? As a child I was teased and bullied just for the clothes I wore and I know I felt anger at times that my mother would do this to me. As an adult I can appreciate the fact my mother had little money to clothe her children and was only doing the best she could at the time. As an adult I do not covet expensive clothes and appreciate the fact I have enough to wear in the first place.
My mother loved being outdoors. Mother communed with nature and grew everything from vegetables to flowers at every rental house we lived in during my childhood. Mother had been raised on a farm in the Ozarks and was used to hard labor just to survive in a family of eleven. I spent many long hours during hot Louisiana summers either working in Mother’s garden, or visiting a neighbor just to harvest figs and berries from the trees in their back yard. On Sundays we would all pile into an old black truck, riding around the countryside checking our crawfish and turtle traps or even bringing home a stray snapping turtle or armadillo we’d found along the side of the road. As a child I hated all the hard work necessary to keep our family fed. As an adult I am strongly connected with nature because of all those years working outdoors.
Life was not easy back then for a family of six living deep in the swamps of southern Louisiana with very little money to their name. But when I think back to all the things my mother did every day to care for her children, I realize she was a most unlikely hero of my childhood. She instilled me the very foundation that allows me to tackle the obstacles in my own life with the same creativity, ingenuity, and pioneer spirit my mother inherited from her own mother.
It’s sad to think I did’t realize the precious gifts of spirit my mother gave me as a child, so I never had the chance to thank her while she was living for all I’ve learned from her over the years. The best I can do to honor her now is live my life to the fullest since she worked so hard to make sure I had a chance to even have one…
Happy Mother’s Day Mom…
International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.
2 thoughts on “TALES FROM THE BAYOU: An Unlikely Hero”
I wish Mother would have told you what she told me the day before she crossed the bridge. She said, “I just want Donna to be happy.” I’m sure she sees you now and knows you are happy.
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That’s a conversation God saved for another time…
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