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July 23, 2014

Becoming Mom

By Shannyn Moore

My mom liked her schedule. Every day had regular chores, but a few had special tasks.

Wednesdays we made bread. On a snowy, wood stove-cranking sort of day, I would sit on the kitchen counter. As she measured ingredients, I put them in the bowl. Our 1970s wallpaper had strawberries. I was 4.

My mother’s Southern accent flavored the activity.

“When you grow up, Shannyn, you can have your own little girl and make bread on Wednesdays.”

“Do you get to tell me what to do when I’m a grown up?!”

I wasn’t an easy child. I know, you’re shocked. I wanted to know how everything worked: What would make something break? How could we to fix it? It wasn’t that I didn’t listen; I just asked another question after every answer. My curiosity was unrelenting.

Mom had a way of attracting the laser of my attention. She’d quietly confide a “secret” just for me. “Your dad will be home soon. He’ll want to play, so you’d better get all your toys cleaned up!”

A secret, a mission and a play date all in one whisper. I loved that.

I was crushed and slightly paranoid to find out in Sunday school that God already knew my every thought and I’d never be able to tell Him a secret.

So many distant hazy memories sharpen when I think of my mother. I’m quite sure the most amazing anecdotes for me weren’t necessarily the ones she would have realized as they were unfolding. Sometimes it’s only with time, space and perspective that we recognize such incidents.

My folks came to Alaska before I was born. Their mothers said goodbye to them for one year. They came as missionary teachers to a home for orphans and displaced Alaska Native kids. Their one-year agreement turned into 43 and counting.

After the three of us daughters were old enough to attend school, my mom returned to teaching. For the life of me I could never figure out why she wanted to be in a room full of first- and second-graders. But she absolutely loved to teach children to read. It was magic. It was her passion. She taught my daughter to read at Grandma Camp. I remember the first time Javin read a street sign and astonished herself that all those letters actually formed a word.

Mom grew up in a family with nine sisters and one brother. She took refuge at the library in her hometown, where she could “travel all over the world without going anywhere.”

When she retired, she became a hospice worker — for children.

Again, the unexpected moments stand out. Wig shopping with her in the midst of her chemotherapy made real the cancer I could not see. I broke down. Her bald head was a reality I wasn’t prepared for and could not accept. She became a breast cancer survivor.

Several years ago, Mom and Pop met with my sisters and me. They brought us around a corner I had dreaded and hoped didn’t exist. Mom’s cancer had returned, and it was untreatable.

She is not dying. In her faith, family and friends, she is living. Every moment.

Oscar Wilde said, “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”

I can assure you, my 4-year-old self — wondering if Mom would get to boss me around when I grew up, or my teenage hell-terror incarnation, or me a week before giving birth to my own daughter all would have said, “No way, I will never become my mother.”

Now, I can only hope to have a fraction of her strength and grace.

I truly never understood how much my mother loved me until I had a child.

Mother’s Day. We all have a mother, and I, without buying a ticket, won the ovarian lottery.

If you’re missing your mother today, for whatever reason, my heart goes out to you. If you touch her with a phone call or a champagne brunch with chocolate strawberries, I toast you. If you are a mother missing a child, through distance or death, I hold you in my prayers.

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Comments
11 Responses to “Becoming Mom”
  1. Rebecca says:

    There are no words to I can write to make it better, Shannon. I understand as I lost my own mother to ovarian cancer. You’ve written a beautiful tribute yo your mother and she is a lovely woman. What sweet memories you have of your childhood because of her. Hold them close and never forget.

  2. My husband John McDonald and I still use a wood cook stove after all these years in Bethel. Bake sourdough bread often and hope that my children have the same wonderful memories that you do! They helped me through my cancer ordeal too!

  3. Man_from_Unk says:

    Mothers are the backbone of all that’s good and right. Happy Mother’s Day.

  4. Really? says:

    Beautifully written, Shannyn. The photo of you and your mother is striking. My own mother passed away 17 months ago. Today I called 2 of my sisters to wish them a Mother’s day. My daughter gave me a huge tomato plant with tomatoes on it. Mothers and daughters rock.

  5. Happy Mother’s Day to all. Shannyn, that was beautifully written – straight from the heart. Thank you for sharing.

    My own mother passed away in 1996 and I will always miss her. There is just no one like her and no other relationship I have is the same. Even now I find myself wishing that I could share a special moment with her or a funny thing that happened during the day.

  6. Zyxomma says:

    Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers. Went to brunch with the boyfriend, his three kids plus son-in-law, the younger daughter’s mother-in-law, and the mother of two of his three with her boyfriend. We were on the Hudson at a beautiful place, and they accommodated the vegans as well as they did everyone else. First cocktail was champagne, elderberry liqueur, and orange peel. The second was champagne, Framboise, and a raspberry.

    My own mother shuffled off this mortal coil almost eight years ago, and I never had kids. There were irises blooming all over today, and mom would have loved them — I loved working in her garden.

  7. beaglemom says:

    Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there. The photo of you, Shannyn, with your mother is just beautiful.

  8. Millie says:

    You are both beautiful ladies, Shannyn! Happy Mother’s Day!

  9. Deni says:

    A beautiful tribute to your Mom, Shannon!

  10. WakeUpAmerica says:

    Wow! Shannon looks so much like her mom! Pretty ladies.

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