Thanking Mom, Ten Years On.

photo © david b. sutton

I was thinking last night about how I would spend this Mother’s Day, nearly a decade after my mother passed away.

I had no plans, so I thought this might be a good day to catch up on the domestic front. I’d get up, get dressed, make my bed. I’d fix myself some breakfast, then put my living space back in order. Maybe later I’d do some laundry.

An altogether domestic day.

I’m a woodworker, and when I use a handsaw or plane, I hear my father’s voice. Don’t force the tool, David, let the saw do the work. I’m grateful for the many skills he helped me acquire. I imagine that his father used the same words, that he heard his father’s voice in his head at such times, the way I hear his. I think, a skill like that must have been handed down with the same words over many generations.

Though it’s a good skill to have, I don’t saw wood every day. Going over my Mother’s Day plans, I paused to consider some of the less glamorous life skills my mother helped me to acquire, and to reflect on her contributions. As I reflected, I began to hear a softer voice.

Stripes don’t go with plaids, David, as I’m deciding what to wear. Looking at my bed I realize that I still put a pillow into a pillow case exactly the way my mother taught me to. I make my bed the same way she made hers.

I can make my own breakfast (and many other meals) because my mother taught me how to cook — and how to clean up afterward. Mom gets credit for teaching me the value of a tidy living space as well.

My mother taught me how to do my own laundry, how to treat a spot by worrying it with some detergent and a fingernail before washing. She taught me how to fold my clothes, and which garments would be happier on hangers. I also thank my mother for teaching me to knit, to crochet, to thread a needle and to sew.

I’m barely scratching the surface here.

So, thanks, Dad, but I won’t be making any noise or wood shavings today. I will quiet myself instead, as I put my house in order, and listen for that other voice, the softer voice, and for the myriad ways it informs my altogether domestic day. Today I will give thanks for my mom, and for the countless generations of mothers who have — quietly and without fanfare — handed down skills and values that make our lives livable, every day.