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Mom stayed home with us until my youngest sister (I have
three) was five. Even then, she went back to work part-time, as a pre-school
teacher. She has been a grandmother in training for two decades.

Every night, except Mondays when we had the special treat of
McDonald’s, she cooked dinner–one for us, another for herself and Dad. I
remember walking with her in the backyard where she had four plots with
vegetables. I remember picking the butter beans and learning that lettuce is
best in the early summer and stringing the string beans into a paper bag. Or
there was the year when the pecan tree that shaded our backyard produced a
hundred-year crop. Our yard was knee-deep in pecans, so we gathered 116 pounds
of them into buckets. Some we shelled and roasted and froze for the winter.
Others we took to a local candy-maker. Mom swam with us in the summers and read
books to us in the cooler months and, most important of all, was always around to
listen to whatever we wanted to say. She also volunteered–at our schools, at
church, in the community. My mother was, and is, an excellent mother.

And I’m not turning into her. I haven’t finished Penny’s or
William’s baby book, for instance. I have only gone swimming with them once or
twice. I haven’t spent as much time with Penny one-on-one doing “homework” (her
favorite activity) as I intended this summer. And I fall down on the job with many
of my domestic duties. We order pizza more often than we think we should. The
small vegetable garden I started is overgrown–Peter has started to bring in the
produce because I just can’t seem to catch up. There is always a pile of
laundry on the bed.

I could castigate myself for not living up to her example.
Or I could be grateful for the gifts she gave me, and recognize my own strengths
and weaknesses as a necessary part of who I am. I could admit my own
limitations, my own imperfections, and recognize that my kids will benefit from
those too. I don’t have completed baby books, but I do have a record of my kids
lives’ through writing. I haven’t gone swimming with them, but their dad has. We
eat pizza a lot, and we love it. So I’ve given up on becoming a master gardener
or providing a home-cooked meal every night. But I hope I’ve learned how to
listen to my children and pass on a legacy of love. 

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