Here’s a story of my own for my mother’s week theme.
Over the years, I’ve had a number of fairy godmothers take me in when I was a mangy stray. Looking back, I am amazed at their kindness. And the thing that seems to unite all of these people, whom I met in vastly different circumstances, in countries around the world, was that they were all women of a certain age. Which is to say, women of a certain maturity.
How did they know that I needed help? I never asked for help, at least not in words.
Somehow, they knew exactly when to give, and when to accept, kindness.
Because, you see, I may be a stray, but I am a useful stray. I am a pretty darn good cook, a competent and tidy housekeeper, and experienced in handling children and pets. I am also fairly quiet and reserved. The only risk you run in taking me in is that I will one day disappear quickly and quietly.
For example, there was Chris (whom I wrote about in Tom the Toad), who took me in when I came crashing out of the bush as a half-starved backpacker. I cooked her meals, cleaned her house, and watched over her daughter as a way of thanking her for her kindness. But I am still amazed that she took that leap of faith to trust me.
Then there was Jaimelle. She took me in when I was very ill. I had serious tropical ear infections in both ears and couldn’t stop vomiting. My eyes were flicking back and forth because the room seemed to be spinning. Instead of assuming that I was some drug addict, she took me in and nursed me back to health, even though I was a total stranger from another country. She took me to tropical flower shows when I recovered enough to walk.
There was Christina, a friendly colombiana who, upon discovering that I like birds, took me on a special trip to a farm to show me the chickens. “Mira! Los pajaros!” So sweet. She let me stay in her house, and showed me the artwork of her children, who had long since left.
There was Kathy, a woman of the central Appalachia, who let me stay in her house when I was doing fieldwork in the middle of nowhere. She was passionate about saving the American chestnut. From her, I learned to brush my hair outside, so that the birds could take the shed strands for their nests.
And, of course, there was Mimi, an accomplished quilter in Florida’s panhandle. I stayed with her and she taught me to make my own quilts on frosty January nights.
Then there was Justine…I trained her sled dogs while she was away and she let me stay a while longer after she and her family returned to watch over her daughters.
In some of these times I was more desperate than others, but I can help but think back and wonder; what would I have done without them? They were all different, and yet so fundamentally the same. They all had something that they loved, and they let me be a part of it, whether it was horses, chestnuts, tropical plants, sled dogs, quilts, or birds. I have learned so much from them. I wish I could repay them.
These are women of culture, women of wisdom. These women have reached an age of pure beauty and grace. They have dignity and confidence in their identity, so much so that they have faith in the uncertain, and hope in the goodness of man. And they are very much to be admired.
I can’t help but feel that I have had so many mothers.