May 2019 Issue
My mom, Mary Lou Bouknight Skenes, is 88. I guess it’s time to admit to her that mother’s really do know best. Perhaps I’ve waited longer than most to release my childhood tenacity and rebellion to say, “Mom, you were right!.” However, better late than never.
My mother seems to be magic at times. This magic has lasted my entire life. It wasn’t a figment of my childhood adoration; her magic is always present. If anything, my adoration for my mother is stronger now than when I was a youth because I know what she’s been through. I now understand where she came from and some of the obstacles she has hurdled and defeated. I have had the great pleasure of having deep meaningful talks with my mom, and she’s told me some deep, dark secrets. My childhood adoration of her has rooted in profound respect. If anything, her magic is at an all time high.
My mom is one of those women who can do anything. Maybe all moms are like that. Of course, I went through my teens and early 20s being disgruntled with her. Like all moms, she was over expectant, demanding, and cramped my I-know-more-than-you-do style, which most teens develop so our mothers actually want us to leave home. In other words, she held steady as I found my way.
She has always demanded a lot from me. I was only told something was good when it was good. I had no false safety net catching my mediocrity and making it ok. Mom is a straight-shooter. If something’s not right, she lets you know. The same goes for if you do a bad, sloppy or half-assed job on something. She doesn’t give out A’s for effort. She tells you to do it over until it’s done…right, and she doesn’t let up until then. Two things she can’t stand: Putting things off, and not doing something to the best of your ability.
You may have gathered she’s tough. She had to be. She was born and raised so far out in the country, I call it the outskirts of country. She was the middle child— a sister and two brothers older and a sister and brother younger—and she has typical middle child traits. Her family was rich in many things, but money wasn’t one of them. They had a dairy farm, grew and raised most of their own food, and hard core chores were done daily rain or shine. They had no electricity, nor indoor plumbing. When she left home at age 18 to go to nursing school in Columbia, SC, I’m not sure if she had been outside of Saluda County, SC, more than two or three times in her entire life.
Now, even at 88, my mother’s work ethic has not waned. She still gets up everyday and accomplishes something, whether it’s working in the yard, making a casserole or cake for a meeting, or organizing and cleaning something. She has a fig tree and a pear tree in her yard. She picks and puts up fig preserves and pear honey all summer long. Very little is wasted at Mom’s. I love having her come to my house because I get triple done when she’s here. Her energy is amazing; she just keeps going until it is done…right. My sister jokes that we need to both get a life-sized, cardboard cutout of her and just place it nearby when trying to accomplish something. God knows that’s funny, but I have to admit, it would be effective.
I will never achieve the magic my mother has in our relationship. The magic is always preserved for the mother, no matter how old her children get. However, I get to have magic for my children. The cool part is I recognize it. I know when my children are somewhat in awe of my motherhood. It come’s in the form of just being able to naturally do mom things: Perfectly peel an apple, find things no one else can find, say the right things at the right time. It’s not something I practiced, or read a book about. The only way I have it is my mother has passed her magic on to me. It’s a right of passage that arrives without announcement. This passing of magic reminds me of a candlelight church service on Christmas Eve. Each person lights the next one’s candle without extinguishing their own flame. The result is a beautiful glow, where the light of all shine together to connect with one purpose and honor one belief.
Moms do the same thing. Universally, mothers have one purpose and one belief: We want the absolute best for our children. While we all may bestow that in many various ways, it is our job to ignite our daughters with the magic of motherhood and pass her the flame so it may also shine bright within her forever. The light in each of us is the collective light from generations of women. I never knew my grandmother Lulabell, nor her mother, nor hers, nor hers, but they all live on within my mother, within me, and eventually within my daughter, too. All of these women, of whom we still carry their DNA, will be an influence for generations to come.
I believe a mom’s magic dwells mostly in her heart, hands and words:
Words: I make sure I have important conversations with Mom. She’s 88; we both know our time together is growing shorter. I ask the hard questions now. She answers. She too asks hard questions of me. I am honest. We talk about God. We do a daily devotion on the telephone together. She is still tough on me. I still need her validation and approval. She helps me so much. I don’t feel I do enough for her. She has made my life good. I make her laugh. She deserves to laugh. She gets so tickled, and it makes my heart sing.
Heart: Mom and I don’t think alike, but I think we love alike. We both tear up over things like Hallmark commercials, tender moments, compliments, and general sweetness. We both get hurt easily. We both are givers and don’t understand the world of takers. She is an introvert, so she doesn’t express love as much as some. I’m not even sure if she finds herself lovable. I understand that. It’s built from a lifetime of trying to please others who weren’t particularly please-able. Nonetheless, under all her expectation, she is tender and gentle and giving and always there. That is love.
Hands: Mom is not as steady on her feet now. Everywhere we go, I hold her hand. I go to church with her on occasion. I hold her hand during church and study it. I don’t want to ever forget the way they look. I think of all the things those 88-year-old hands have done for me, for others. Surely God lives in a mother’s hands.
Thank you mom for loving me the best you knew how. You are a great mom, and I love the traits I have received from you. They help me everyday of my life. Thank you for all you’ve done for me, but most of all, thank you for passing your magic to me so now I can share my own magic with my children, and they can look at me with hopefully similar adoration as I have for you. You, simply being you, is the greatest Mother’s Day gift of all. Happy Mother's Day!