Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Marvin Payne on Mother's Day


Mother’s Day—And All the Moms Who Stayed Home
By Marvin Payne

Mother’s Day should be a surprise. That way, you’d have a lot more mothers out to sacrament meeting. As it is, you only have the mothers who are either really brave, emotionally resilient, or overly confident. The rest are at home, watching re-runs of devotionals on BYU TV or drowning their feelings of utter inadequacy in diet Coke with lemon.

And they miss the prize, too, which is always a comfort. I don’t mean the prize is a comfort—missing it is a comfort. Because the prize is either a plant, which is one more living thing that will require her care or die, or it’s chocolate, which, of course, will provide one more shove down the slippery slope of guilt. (One of the blessings of being a mother is that, by definition, you have children, and the children will eat all the chocolate before you get any. Of course, then you have to deal with the guilt of having a Sunday with children who are full of chocolate rather than homemade nine-grain bread ((prepared on Saturday)).)

And of course these mothers miss whatever really good things might have happened at sacrament meeting, like, well, the sacrament. But they also miss Nathan Webb, the youth speaker, who actually required his shuddering mother to stand up in the fifth row and listen to his talk. And that was pretty entertaining. (Also, I, who assigned Nathan to speak, must admit, pretty moving, on account of he didn’t talk about her perfections so much as her values. Which is why she is still among us in mortality.) Also they miss Bob Wilcox telling us how Anna Jarvis, who spent a quarter of a century and all her inheritance promoting the establishment of an official Mother’s Day in America, was arrested in 1948 for disturbing the peace during a protest against the commercialization of the holiday, dying that same year having never married or born children. But hey, the consolation is that I was born that year to carry the torch of protest all the way into the new millennium.

(Why do the commercializers even try? Our little four-year-old gave her mom a homemade drawing of, I don’t know, maybe a paramecium, with a rubber band around it and “from Addie and Daddy” on the card. Hallmark, eat your heart out. You’ll never beat that.

A couple of years ago, Addie’s brother John, sitting on a Mother’s Day panel in primary, revealed that, “I love my mother because she helps me when I clean the house.” He’s a little sharper-eyed now, though, as suggested by what he about wrote her this year:

“…She helps me when I am sick and she finishes my chores for me. My mom makes the best lemon poppy-seed cake, cinnamon rolls, and popcorn.” ((To this I can attest—it’s popped, not in a bag, but in a pan with coconut oil—yumm!)) “She looks the prettiest when she goes to the Temple or out on a date. She loves to eat lemon bars and chocolate.” ((She joyfully attends sacrament meeting on Mother’s Day. We also have many plants.)) )

One of the fixtures of the day is bad poetry. I will quote here a stanza of Mother’s Day verse without attributing it to any individual poet, because it came last week in an email from the Relief Society, who didn’t attribute it to any individual poet.

I see you working hard for me
And wonder what it means:
Whether I will do the same
And give up my own dreams.

I didn’t actually keep this in the inbox where my wife might happen to read it. I didn’t think it would inspire her.

I can’t lay my hand on it right now, but my old pal Carol Lynn Pearson wrote a poem once about how when a mother bird returns to the nest with worms for her babies, she also brings with her shining bits of sky. The closet ornithologist in me wonders, suddenly, how a mother bird might presume to teach her babies to fly if she, herself, didn’t know how. Or how she could testify that dreams may come true if hers hadn’t. (Hmm, I wonder if any branch of ornithology specializes in bird dreams?)

I had a friend, Mike Palmer, who has long since rejoined his departed mother, whom he loved. On Mother’s Day in 1974 he quoted for me a couple of lines from a poem he’d heard. It wasn’t in sacrament meeting. I remember his grin as he spoke from memory the words, “Huge as Asia, siesmic with laughter, gin and chicken helpless in her Irish hand…”

Here’s the whole piece. It’s called “To My Mother.”

Most near, most dear, most loved, and most far,
Under the window where I often found her
Sitting as huge as Asia, seismic with laughter,
Gin and chicken helpless in her Irish hand,
Irresistible as Rabelais, but most tender for
The lame dogs and hurt birds that surround her,—
She is a procession no one can follow after
But be like a little dog following a brass band.

She will not glance up at the bomber or condescend
To drop her gin and scuttle to a cellar,
But lean on the mahogany table like a mountain
Whom only faith can move, and so I send
O all my faith and all my love to tell her
That she will move from mourning into morning.

This was written by George Granville Barker, who must be acknowledged here as the original owner, and therefore copyright holder, of these words. He was not LDS (not by a long shot, apparently), and died before email.

…Or maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe I think the moms are all scared because, heck, I would be. I mean, all the stuff we praise them for is what we might praise the Savior for if there were a “Savior’s Day.” Wait, there is one. Fifty-two, in fact. Hmm. Would He stay home? Well, of course He’s not inadequate. But then, He doesn’t have to cook and clean and… Well, except for broiling fish on the seashore… and then, oh yeah, five thousand—big meal. And washing disciples’ feet, and being the only name on the temple cleansing sign-up. And, okay, we’re there—going deeper into the valley of death than any labor-torn mom and giving birth to all creation.

Maybe what bugged me about the Relief Society verse was that I pictured Mom saying to the sticky-faced kid, “Your dreams instead of mine.” Well, it feels different if you picture Mom suffering in a dark orchard and saying to her Father, “Thy will, not mine be done.”

I guess what makes the difference is what the abandoned dreams are. Beauty? I can imagine the Savior wanting to be beautiful out of reverence for His Father, in whose express image He was made. Education? I can imagine the Savior wanting to learn all He could about the beauty and wonder of the world, to tear at the veil that covered his memory of having made it all. Art? I can imagine the Savior wanting to sound good as He sang the hymn with His disciples on the eve of His atonement.

Beauty again: Helen had a face that launched a thousand ships. Christ has a face that launched a trillion lives. I once asked my Sunday School class of fourteen-year-olds who in the ward they thought had “His image in their countenances.” I expected them to say folks like Merle Broadbent, who, along with radiating measurable light, is just plain beautiful. Well, they went along with Merle, but they were downright eager about Mike Huish, the bishopric guy over the youth. Mike, bless his glorious heart, was not, as a senior in high school, voted “most likely to be mistaken for Tom Selleck.” I was moved by their innocent fervor, and added a beautiful face to my list of inspirations.

Back to the email stanza. It wouldn’t have mattered to the Savior Who’s dream He was serving, because His dream and His Father’s dream were one dream. And this is how it was meant to come true:

“…by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death. Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.”

ME:
Wait, I thought that was for the guys.

THE SPIRIT:
Yes, but who does it mostly sound like, your dad or your mom?

ME:
Oh. I get it.

THE MOMS WHO STAYED HOME BUT SUBSEQUENTLY READ BACKSTAGE GRAFFITI: All right, then. Mister sticky-faced six-year-old, I’m your mom. I will not abandon my dream for yours. I will surrender my will to Heavenly Father’s dream and cling to it for all I’m worth (which, according to Him, is a lot), and my joy in that dream will ignite your eyes and His dream will become yours.

And we’ll eat the chocolate gleefully together.

4 comments:

Katscratchme said...

Horray for dreams, chocolate and kicking guilt out on it's backside!

shydandelion said...

That was great! Thanks for sharing. :)

Rebecca said...

I live Marvin Payne! :)

joven said...

hi, you have nice blog.. u can view also mine..http://akoniwares.blogspot.com