Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Amazing to Grace by Grace Burrowes

In keeping with our theme regarding Amazing Ladies, the following thoughts befell me:

My mother gave birth to seven children, starting off with a set of twins. The babies were lying athwart each other and sixty-five years ago, there were no sonograms at sixteen weeks to warn a lady of her impending good fortune. The obstetrician figured it out late in the pregnancy but kept the realization to himself lest he “upset” his patient. Mom found out she was having twins when baby No. 1 came squalling into the world, and the nurse told her to keep pushing, because, “Mrs. Burrowes, you’re still in labor.”

Mom coped. She’s been coping ever since. In her late eighties, she copes with hearing loss, diminution of energy (I can almost keep up with her now), failing eyesight, and a few other blessings of great age.

My mother never got me. Domestication was pretty much her identity, which was fortunate if the laundry were going to get done (using a wringer washer) and the meals prepared for a household of nine-plus people. I abhor housework, it gives me no satisfaction. Twenty minutes after I scrub the floor, some cat comes and hurks on it—what’s the point?

My mother loves to cook. I have many memories of our house being full of company, with extra tables set here and there on holidays. Every bit of the food consumed was something Mom made in a small, antiquated kitchen.

I hate to cook. It’s messy and time consuming and bothersome.

But… when I turned up pregnant without benefit of matrimony, I called my parents (eventually). Dad happened to pick up the phone.

“Dad, I have some news… I’m going to have a baby.”

“Well. That is some news. Do you love the baby’s father and is he a good genetic risk?” My dad is ever the scientist.

“Yes and Yes.” What else was I going to say?

“Well. I’m going to make your mother a drink while you talk to her.”

Mom was disappointed in me, but I’d been disappointed in her for a while too. We were even. Neener, neener.

Was I, or was I not, an utter ass? The pregnancy turned high risk, and the docs wanted to put me in the hospital. Mom, in addition to her other accomplishments, is a registered nurse. She got her sexagenarian (at the time) self on a plane in the dead of winter to come look after me, sparing me a month in the hospital (which I could not afford) and then hanging around for weeks to look after Her Highness The Baby while I tried to put my life back together.

And a strange thing happened when I became the parent of a daughter. I stopped pouting and throwing tantrums in pursuit of my Right to Be the Baby—my petty efforts in this regard were upstaged by the Genuine Article, Beloved Offspring Herself. As I struggled to provide basic necessities for my daughter, I realized my mother had done her best with me, her very, very best, and an impressive effort it was too. When I offered her civility instead of respect, she loved me. When I was blind to her sacrifices, she loved me. When I was a complete croaking toad (sound familiar?), she loved me.

She didn’t always like or understand me, but she loved me. It has taken only fifty-some years, but I get it now: Love isn’t about a perpetual warm fuzzy without conflict or friction, it’s about being there for someone despite the conflict and friction. Could I have written a single worthwhile Happily Ever After without my mother’s example?

I do not think so.

Does she get me now?

It doesn’t matter. I get her, and some day, if my daughter gets me, it will be because my mother loved me. Despite all, every day of my life, my mother has loved me.


  1. Great post Grace! I often think that we get so centered on what's going on in our lives that we forget to look at the sacrifices our parents have made to give us life - I know I get caught up on the imperfections in our relationship but I need to remember to look at the overall picture and remember that love is at the base of it all. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Maria, and just when I thought it was my turn to be Mom's champion, she's become one of my most staunch allies as a writer. Lovely!

  3. What a great post. ahhh mothers and daughters - I could write a book hahaha!

  4. Hooray for Moms! What a beautiful post! And, OMG, I LOVE that your Mom supports your writing. Hee hee.

    There is something about the transition from daughter to friend that can happen between daughters and mothers. Part of it is letting go of the adolescent need for Moms to 'get' us.

    My Mom and I really never got along until we faced losing each other when our family was ripping apart. I was well into my late 20s when, like a smack upside the head, I realized she was a pretty cool lady who had done her very best by me, whether she 'got' me or not.

    I consider myself extremely fortunte that I figured this out before she passed away. My important life lesson: Cherish your Mom.

  5. I never realized all my mom did for me until I became a mom. This is a great post!

  6. Wonderful post, Grace! I lost my mother a year ago and she was a rock! She read my books and everyone who ever walked through the door of her abode heard all about my books!

  7. So catslady, we are all waiting for that book. There isn't an author on this site whose career didn't start with, "I could write a book..."

    Cat, I love that she does too. It has been good for her to have a reason to be my champion (again, some more), and a very pleasant surprise to me, given the material I write and generational differences between us.

    Shana--like that old saying about how smart your parents become when you have kids...

    Carolyn--WHOSE "LOVE DRUNK COWBOY" MADE THE NYT E-LIST THIS WEEK!!!--Sorry your mom is gone, but the gift of her support is forever, like being able to say you're a New York Times bestselling author.

  8. Great post! I never truly appreciated my mom until I had kids. I didn't realize how much work went into basic stuff like feeding and cleaning. Now I just try to do half the stuff she did!

  9. What a lovely post, Grace! No wonder you write such great NYT best selling books!!! My mom didn't want me when I was born--what a way to ruin a perfectly good 2nd year of marriage! She only liked me when I could start talking to her like a human being. LOL And I loved her for it. She was the greatest friend I could have ever had. :)

  10. My mother died of lung cancer in 1977 at the age of 47. She was an artist and a fine craftsman, and I learned at lot from her. The one thing I didn't get was someone to consult with as I grew older and had kids of my own. It made me more independent than most women my age, but I lost out on the wisdom she might have shared. My father was a great resource for many of the practical aspects of life, but sometimes, you need your mom.:)