"Motherless children have a hard time
When the mother is gone, Lord."
--A. P. Carter
A friend of mine lost his mother yesterday, a sad circumstance I experienced some 13 years ago myself. It is no great revelation to remark that a mother fills many roles that no one else can fill.
One of my favorite little details on the TV show, The Killing, is the character of the male detective, Stephen Holder, a kind of sleazy, youngish guy whose background and ethics are a bit questionable and who likes to relate using a kind of hip-hop dialect suited to his street cred if not his race. I especially like his term for a mother, which is "moms," even when used in the singular, as in, "Yo, Little Man, where's yer moms?"
His word is perfect. It captures, unintentionally I'm sure, the universality of motherly values, ones that we cherish, ones that I miss. Every mother is a moms.
I've gotten to spend time with a couple of moms this summer, one just the other night, and in doing so, realized once again that universal truth: to a true mother, all men who are friends of her sons are her sons.
A moms turns her own son back into a boy in her presence, regardless of how old or sophisticated he may think he is. Every man is a son in the presence of his mother, and even when he is the man hosting the party and mixing the drinks and grilling the food, his mother's input can only be ignored at his own peril. For she knows the pacing of a party, has hospitality as part of her genetic code.
A moms will make a home very easy to be in. For men. She enjoys the women who visit, can share problems and commiserate with them, shares compliments and current women's issues, especially those concerning children, but her true gift is with her son's friends. The women, she knows from personal experience, can fend for themselves, but the men must be taken care of. As a species, they are fairly inept, don't know how to be assertive in a home like they are in the world, and, in her experience, simply don't know where things are because she has always located things for them. That is part of what gave her purpose and what gives her purpose now. You cannot do things for her, except maybe for heavy lifting, because she still lives to do those things for you.
A moms will scold you, but gently. She will let you know that her son or you need to get more exercise or that you don't need that next glass of wine, but she is not really being critical. Your ears don't burn. You don't hold back from what you were doing. You know that she isn't trying to change you so much just have a chance at her say because there is no way to contest that what she says is right, but, oh, we foolish boys, we are going to do what we will do.
A moms knows when to stay and when to leave. She will acknowledge her own younger self with her sense of fun and her references to what she used to do or be. She wants to be in on the joke, to enjoy the party food, even if that is not what she would normally allow herself. She may have that extra glass of wine, but she knows that the arc of a party or a gathering is going to extend beyond her. She'll be cleaning up, refusing much help, not only to keep things going smoothly for her son (and daughter-in-law), but also because, ultimately, she returns back to mother from friend, confidante, or partygoer.
But most of all, a moms is a woman who makes you feel, whoever you are, like you are just a little bit more protected than you would be if she wasn't there. As you watch her set down her wine glass to swoop in to rescue a grandchild all while continuing her conversation, you remember how you were once that same child to either mother or grandmother, whose own little world of bumps and crashes and unbounded energy needed a gentle reminder, some guidance from her, perhaps just a touch, to make things right again. And you still do.